Champions League Christian Pulisic first US male to score in semi

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Champions League Christian Pulisic first US male to score in semi

U.S. star Christian Pulisic's goal gives Chelsea a big boost in the … Tue, 27 Apr 2021 11:00:00 -0700-Christian Pulisic has become the first United States men's international to score a goal in a Champions League semifinal.

Craig Burley says Christian Pulisic’s goal for Chelsea at Real Madrid shouldn’t surprise anyone. (1:16)

Christian Pulisic became the first United States men’s international to score a goal in a Champions League semifinal after netting in the first half of Chelsea’s 1-1 first-leg draw with Real Madrid on Tuesday.

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The goal was also Pulisic’s fifth in the Champions League, moving him ahead of DaMarcus Beasley on the all-time U.S. men’s scoring list in European football’s premier competition.

Christian Pulisic is the first U.S. International to score in a UCL Semifinal. Pulisic (5) also breaks a tie with DaMarcus Beasley (4) for most UCL goals by U.S. Internationals.

Pulisic found himself alone in the penalty area on 14 minutes and cut to his right, beating Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois and firing between two defenders to give Chelsea an early lead.

Karim Benzema scored to draw the hosts level later in the first half, leaving both teams with all to play for in next week’s return leg at Stamford Bridge.

After the match, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said: “The goal was well deserved and we should have scored at least one more. We conceded more or less out of nothing and that can always happen against individual quality.

“It was a disappointing score at half-time. We had to stay calm and not lose confidence. The second half was very tactical, you could feel that we are a bit tired. We only had a few days to recover from another tough away game. We have to live with 1-1.”

The 22-year-old Pulisic also scored in the knockout round in 2017 when he was still with Borussia Dortmund and is now the youngest player to score for Chelsea in the semifinals of the UCL or later, passing Ramires, who did it at 25 years old against Barcelona in 2012.

1 – Christian Pulisic is the first American player in history to score against Real Madrid in all competitions and the first to score in a UEFA Champions League semi-final. Star

Adding to the list of firsts for Pulisic, he is also now the first U.S. international to score in any competition against Real Madrid.

“It was a great finish, great composure,” Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta said. “He’s an amazing player, he’s a young player, he’s growing and improving. I’m very pleased with his goal because he’s an important player for the team.”

Two U.S. women’s team players have scored in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semis or later already — Carli Lloyd did it in 2017 while on loan with Manchester City, and Alana Cook did it last weekend in Paris Saint-Germain’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona.

Pulisic has battled injuries throughout his career, and Tuchel claimed earlier this month that he needed to learn to trust his body again after dealing with nagging issues dating to a hamstring problem suffered in last August’s FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal.

Tuchel’s first game in charge took place on Jan. 27 against Wolves, but Pulisic did not start a Premier League game until March 13.

However, the 22-year-old has started six of Chelsea’s past eight matches across all competitions, and he said prior to the Madrid match: “I feel very confident in my body and my fitness level at the moment. I have played a string of games.

“I’ve never thought of myself as a player who is injury prone or anything. Obviously, I had some time out in the past year and a bit. It is really just about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every single game. I feel good about that right now.”

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Christian Pulisic first U.S. male to score in Champions League semi … Tue, 27 Apr 2021 11:00:00 -0700-On a night pitting two of the world heavyweights, a young American from Pennsylvania burst back into the spotlight and put his club in position to reach the May …

The controversy and commotion surrounding the short-lived European Super League was cast aside for a few welcomed hours Tuesday in rainy Madrid for the resumption of the continent’s cornerstone, the UEFA Champions League.

And on a night pitting two of the world heavyweights who nine days earlier had threatened to break from the tournament, a young American from Pennsylvania burst back into the spotlight with a first-half goal and put his club in position to reach the May 29 final.

Christian Pulisic, a 22-year-old winger from Hershey, became the first U.S. national team player to score in a Champions League semifinal, and Chelsea happily accepted a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the first of two legs.

“It’s a proud moment, but the job is nowhere near done,” Pulisic said. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”

Chelsea will return home to west London for next Wednesday’s return leg, needing a victory or a scoreless draw to secure passage to the championship game in Istanbul against Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

Pulisic’s strike provided a vital away goal — the first tiebreaker, should the teams finish even on aggregate score. He also became the first U.S. player to score against the Spanish titans in an official competition. And now he is on the cusp of becoming the first to play in a final — an important steppingstone for American soccer.

He started on the right wing, threatened consistently in the first half and played 65 minutes before being replaced for tactical purposes, another glowing performance after working himself back into Manager Thomas Tuchel’s good graces this spring.

Pulisic drew six fouls; the rest of the team totaled five. He joined Lionel Messi, Neymar and three others who absorbed that many in a semifinal over the past 10 years. No one on Real Madrid suffered more than two fouls.

Chelsea took the early initiative, and Pulisic was in the middle of it.

In the 10th minute, Mason Mount made a pacey run out of midfield and crossed to Pulisic, who headed the ball to Timo Werner for a six-yard stab and an almost-certain goal. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, however, used his right foot to make a terrific kick save.

Four minutes later, Pulisic scored his fifth Champions League goal, breaking a tie with DaMarcus Beasley for the U.S. career record. He timed his run perfectly to get behind the defense and cushioned Antonio Rüdiger’s long ball. Courtois came off his line to challenge the free-running Pulisic, but the American used quick, tight footwork to pull the ball from the lunging Courtois and calmly fire an 11-yard shot past two retreating defenders.

“When I turned, I didn’t expect to be so free in on goal,” Pulisic said. “I took my time with it and found the right time to shoot it. Nice goal.”

Chelsea aimed to ride the momentum to another deserved goal. Pulisic was targeted by Madrid, absorbing hard tackles, the second of which resulted in Vinícius Júnior’s yellow card.

Chelsea’s opportunities, though, went unfulfilled.

“Sometimes, if you have such a good half-hour like we had and so many chances and half-chances, everybody wishes for more composure and for more precision,” Tuchel said. “The challenge was more to worry too long and to not lose confidence.”

Madrid, though, began to find its way. From beyond the penalty area, Karim Benzema stroked a powerful shot off the far post. And in the 29th minute, Chelsea failed to clear the ball from danger in the penalty area. In an elegant sequence, Benzema headed the ball to himself and used a wicked side volley from seven yards to tie the score.

The teams were level at halftime, but given its bright start, Chelsea surely felt it deserved to be ahead.

“The first half was not our best,” Madrid Manager Zinedine Zidane said, “but the second half was better. So it was a fair result.”

The second half lacked energy and opportunities, which, given the setting and circumstances, worked in Chelsea’s favor.

The Blues have been fantastic defensively since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, and in another resolute performance they saw out the match and embraced a draw that felt like a victory — thanks, in large part, to Pulisic.

“It’s halftime” in the series, Tuchel said, “and we need to fight for every centimeter and every advantage.”

— Steven Goff

Read highlights of Chelsea vs. Real Madrid below.

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Chelsea and Real Madrid played to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal in Madrid. Real Madrid has never defeated Chelsea in four European meetings (Chelsea holds the advantage 2-0-2).

Chelsea pulled ahead when Christian Pulisic became the first American player to score in a Champions League semifinal when he eluded Thibaut Courtois and slotted his 14th minute goal. Karim Benzema erased the advantage with his 29th minute volley. The goal, Benzema’s 71st in Champions League play, moved him into a tie for fourth-most in the competition’s history

Chelsea had a promising opportunity to take the lead in 78th minute, but Hakim Ziyech’s free kick was comfortably saved by Courtois. Chelsea’s Édouard Mendy recorded an 89th minute save, which ended a stretch of Real Madrid possession and helped preserve the first-leg draw.

They will compete in the second leg on May 5 at Stamford Bridge in London.

Each side split possession 50-50 through the first 60 minutes, but Chelsea is looking to reassert the same control it exerted in the early minutes of the game.

Both teams welcomed the day’s first substitutes through the second third of Tuesday’s match. Real Madrid swapped Vinicius Junior for former Chelsea star Eden Hazard.

Eying a match-winner, Chelsea Coach Thomas Tuchel replaced César Azpilicueta, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic with Reece James, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech.

LONDON — Owned by a Russian oligarch who isn’t afraid to splash cash, Chelsea Football Club is one of the richest soccer teams in the world.

But when the Blues became part of the ill-fated European Super League last week, their fans — armed only with a few placards, banners and smartphones — believe they played a key role in spurring the club to withdraw, becoming unlikely heroes in a soap opera that riveted world soccer.

“One hundred percent we made a difference,” said Alex Burke, 25, a Chelsea fan who helps run “We Are The Shed,” a social media group for Blues fans that called on supporters to gather outside Stamford Bridge last Tuesday.

“Chelsea fans can get a bad rap for being ‘plastic fans’ or ‘glory hunters,’ but the protests showed we have strong, core support in touch with our roots. People might think it’s ironic seeing Chelsea fans do it, because we have links with big money,” he said, referring to owner Roman Abramovich’s petrodollars.

“And you might think that puts us in closer touch with Super League mind-set. But it doesn’t. The Super League just overstepped the line — massively.”

Chelsea and Real Madrid are tied 1-1 at halftime of the first leg of their Champions League semifinal match.

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic became the first American player to score in a Champions League semifinal when he rounded Thibaut Courtois and netted his 14th minute goal. Karim Benzema evened the score 15 minutes later with a keen 29th minute volley.

Pulisic, 22, is the youngest Chelsea player to score in a semifinal match in the competition, according to Opta. He is now the top American scorer in Champions League history.

After rain began to blanket the field, Marcelo whipped a cross to the far side of the area in the 29th minute. The ball was headed inside, first by Raphaël Varane, then again by Éder Militão. Karim Benzema used his chest to control the ball, then fired a volley over Édouard Mendy’s shoulder into the center of the net to equalize.

Chelsea nearly struck first when Mason Mount burst into a long run up the far side of the field. His pass inside was deflected but found Christian Pulisic on the nearside of the penalty area. Pulisic headed the ball inside to Timo Werner, whose shot at point-blank range was saved by Thibaut Courtois in the 10th minute.

Four minutes later, Pulisic made a penetrating run through the middle of Real Madrid’s back line. He received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, drew Courtois out of the goal area, then coolly slotted the go-ahead goal.

Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal, Éder Militão, Raphaël Varane, Nacho, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Luka Modrić, Marcelo, Casemiro, Vinícius Júnior

Édouard Mendy, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rüdiger, César Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté, Jorginho, Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic

Karim Benzema has scored five of Real Madrid’s 18 goals through this season’s tournament, but it was winger Vinicius Junior’s first-leg brace that lifted Los Blancos past Liverpool and into the semifinal. He first struck in the 27th minute then helped Real Madrid seize control 20 minutes into the second half.

German midfielder Toni Kroos returns after missing Real Madrid’s last three league matches, but the team will be without a handful of regulars on Tuesday.

Lucas Vázquez, who has played in eight tournament games, is out with a knee injury. Left back Ferland Mendy (calf) has not played since the second leg against Liverpool earlier this month. And midfielder Federico Valverde, who tested positive for coronavirus, has been in isolation since last week.

Captain Sergio Ramos recently tested positive for coronavirus, but he was already sidelined with a muscle injury. He could return for the second leg against Chelsea on May 5.

Chelsea’s 19 tournament goals are tied for the third-most in the competition. Forward Olivier Giroud, who has not started a Champions League match since Feb. 23, leads the team with six scores in seven matches. Timo Werner has three in nine games.

Winger Christian Pulisic is one of two Americans playing in the Champions League semifinals alongside Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Pulisic has three goals in his last four matches and drew 11 fouls in the second leg against FC Porto.

Chelsea’s defense has been much-improved under coach Thomas Tuchel, who took over after Frank Lampard was dismissed in January. Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has allowed two goals in nine Champions League starts, the fewest by any goalkeeper with at least five tournament starts.

Midfielder Mateo Kovačić has appeared in nine Champions League games this season, but will not play Tuesday because of a hamstring injury.

Real Madrid is unbeaten in its last 17 matches and has not tasted defeat since its Jan. 30 loss to Levante. It won 12 of those 17 games.

Los Blancos earned their place in the semifinal through a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the first leg of the quarterfinal — they played to a scoreless draw two weeks later. The club topped Italian side Atalanta, 4-1, on aggregate, in the previous round. Real Madrid twice lost to Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage but swept Inter Milan and finished with a 3-2-1 record.

Real Madrid is also in a nail-biting title race in La Liga, tied for second place with archrival Barcelona, two points behind Atletico Madrid and one point ahead of Sevilla.

Chelsea surrendered a late goal to FC Porto in the second leg of its quarterfinal matchup earlier this month, but advanced to the semifinal thanks to goals by Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell in the first match a week before. It swept Atletico Madrid, 3-0 on aggregate, in the round of 16, and finished the group stage with a 4-0-2 record that included a sweep of French club Stade Rennais.

The Blues have won four of their last six matches in all competitions, including a win over fellow Champions League contender Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals on April 17.

Chelsea sits fourth in the Premier League, holding a three-point advantage over fifth-place West Ham with five league games to go. It will face Premier League leader Manchester City three days after the second leg with Real Madrid, and play Leicester City in the FA Cup final on May 15.

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– April 27, 2021
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