Chelsea boss blasts ‘laughing referee’ after Champions League exit
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel ripped into referee Szymon Marciniak after the Blues were knocked out of the Champions League, accusing the Polish match official of “laughing and smiling” with Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Tuchel’s team came agonizingly close to pulling off a famous comeback when they took a 3-0 lead in Madrid, which would have seen them into the semifinals 4-3 on aggregate.
But an 80th-minute strike from Rodrygo after a majestic assist from Luka Modric hauled the hosts back into the tie, before Karim Benzema continued his remarkable season with a header six minutes into extra time to hand Real a 5-4 victory across the two legs.
The Chelsea players were heartbroken at the final whistle after a performance of character and intensity at the Bernabeu which was a vast improvement on their sloppy showing in the defeat to Real at Stamford Bridge last week.
After goals from Mason Mount and Antonio Rudiger overturned the aggregate deficit in Spain, the Blues had a 61st-minute strike from Marcos Alonso ruled out for handball, although Timo Werner did score to make it 3-0 with 15 minutes to play – only for Real to stage their stirring late comeback.
Tuchel, who guided Chelsea to an improbable Champions League title just four months after taking over last season, was proud at his team’s display but was also left furious at the actions of Polish referee Marciniak.
“I was disappointed that the referee had a good time with my colleague, Carlo Ancelotti,” said the German after the match.
“I know that Carlo is a gentleman and a nice guy, but when I wanted to go and say thank you for the match, I see him laughing and smiling, and laughing loudly with the opponent’s coach.
“I think this is a very, very wrong time to do this after the final whistle and 126 minutes, and one team giving their heart and fighting to the very last drop, and you go as a coach and see the referee smiling and laughing with the other coach.
“I think it’s very, very bad timing, and I told him this.”
Tuchel also accused Marciniak of lacking “courage” in the incident which saw Alonso’s goal ruled out for what appeared to be a slight handball during the buildup.
The effort was ruled out after a VAR review, but the referee did not view it himself on the pitchside monitor.
“If you play against Real Madrid, you can maybe not expect that everybody has the courage,” said Tuchel.
“I felt little decisions also in the first leg and the second leg today as well [went against us]. I did not see the goal, but I told him I’m super disappointed that he does not come out and check it on his own.
“In a match like this where you have a certain line to whistle, you should stay the boss and not give decisions like this to somebody in a chair who is isolated from the atmosphere and from the way.
“The referee has a certain style, things he allows and doesn't allow, he follows a certain line so I think he should stay in charge and check it on his own, then he could also explain it better.
“But this is just my opinion. We deserve more, but in the end we felt we had more minutes to play in the second half of the extra time. Maybe it’s too much to ask for in matches like this against this opponent. We had it in our hands and we were not lucky enough, it's like this,” said the German.
The defeat is almost certainly the last time Chelsea will feature in Europe under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, as the sale of the club edges towards its conclusion after the Russian billionaire was sanctioned by the UK government.
Many will see the pulsating encounter at the Bernabeu as encapsulating the kind of dramatic European nights Chelsea have so often been a part of during Abramovich’s tenure.
The London club have won Europe’s biggest club prize twice since the Russian took over, claiming the prize last year and in 2012, while being beaten finalists in Moscow in 2008. In continental terms, Chelsea also won the UEFA Europa League in 2013 and 2019.
After moving into an aggregate lead in Madrid with just 15 minutes to play, another famous night appeared to be in the offing before a moment of magic from the evergreen Modric dragged Real back into contention.
The 13-time tournament winners will now face a semifinal against either Manchester City or Atletico Madrid, who conclude their quarterfinal clash in Madrid on Wednesday night.
“We are very disappointed, and we are very proud at the same time,” Tuchel added of his team.
“We played a fantastic match, we scored four goals [including the disallowed Alonso effort], we had big chances to score even more, but we were unlucky, that’s why we are disappointed.
“We got beaten by pure individual quality and conversion, offensive conversion of our mistakes, unfortunately we had two mistakes after ball wins, the most crucial moment in games against Real Madrid.
“In the end we were unlucky, we deserved to go through after this performance and after this match today, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“These are the kind of defeats we can digest and swallow because we left nothing to regret out there,” added the 48-year-old.
In Tuesday’s other quarterfinal second leg, Bayern Munich were stunned at home by Spanish outsiders Villarreal.
Bayern’s prolific Pole Robert Lewandowski leveled the tie at 1-1 on aggregate with his 52nd-minute goal, only for Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze to strike in the 88th minute to give Unai Emery’s team passage to a first Champions League last-four appearance in 16 years, where they will meet either Liverpool or Benfica.