Ruben Loftus-Cheek has said that Chelsea should be proud of our performance against Real Madrid on Tuesday evening but admits the overriding feeling was one of disappointment not to have progressed to the semi-final stage of the Champions League.
The Blues were so close to pulling off one of the greatest ever comebacks in Europe’s premier club competition, having gone 3-0 up at the Santiago Bernabeu to make it 4-3 on aggregate before eventually being edged out in extra-time by Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
Goals from Mason Mount, Toni Rudiger and Timo Werner, which came shortly after Marcos Alonso saw a strike harshly ruled out by VAR for handball, had Thomas Tuchel’s Blues in the driving seat in the Spanish capital before Rodrygo pulled a goal back for the hosts to send the tie into extra-time, where Karim Benzema headed home the winner.
It was certainly cruel on Chelsea, who dominated the game throughout, and while disappointed to exit the competition we won in May, Loftus-Cheek feels we can hold our heads high for the way we took the game to the Spaniards.
‘We had full belief that we could pull the tie back and I think that showed in our performance, because we were excellent for the most part,’ said Loftus-Cheek when analysing the fixture as a whole.
‘To bring the game back and have it in our hands only for it to be taken away from us is very disappointing. We are proud of our performance but the overriding feeling in the dressing room is definitely one of disappointment because of the start we had.
‘Fair play to Real Madrid, they took their chances and when you have a striker like Benzema it’s tough because if he gets a chance then he takes it. We were playing against a top team who can punish you and that’s what happened in extra-time.’
The handball signalled by VAR in the build-up to Alonso’s goal against his former side was a key talking point after the game, with many pundits feeling that our left-back could do nothing about the ball being smashed against his hand from close range.
Loftus-Cheek felt in real-time that there wasn’t a foul, but believes we had enough chances throughout the game and in extra-time to have scored more and that we can’t look back at this moment and single it out.
‘I haven’t watched it back yet but I didn’t see a handball from Marcos in real time,’ the midfielder added. ‘I’ll have to look at the replay again before making judgement.
‘We had some chances in extra-time but this is football. On another day, we put those in the back of the net and go through.
‘We can feel proud. The disappointment will be at the forefront right now because it’s fresh and it’s hard to take that we’re out of the Champions League having played so well.
‘Once things blow over, I think we will all feel proud for the way we’ve performed. It’s just hard to take right now.
‘We’ve got another big game just around the corner to prepare for, an FA Cup semi-final, and we have to be ready for that.’
The England international was also asked whether the ongoing sale of the club had an impact on the players leading into the game, with Loftus-Cheek quick to insist that he and his team-mates are able to shut out external noises and focus on the task in hand.
‘We try not to think about the off-field things too much to be honest, especially when you have a game of this magnitude to focus on,’ he said.
‘From now until the end of the season, we’ve got some really big games coming up and we can’t afford to have our minds on other things.
‘We will stay tight as group and that’s why we are able to focus on the task ahead and putting in strong performances like we’ve shown recently.’