Villarreal pulls off latest Champions League upset, beats Bayern in 1st leg of quarters

Villarreal pulled off another surprising Champions League result with a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Meanwhile, defending champion Chelsea fell 3-1 to Real Madrid.

Benzema hat trick helps Real Madrid topple defending champion Chelsea 3-1

Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma scores during a 1-0 win over FC Bayern during the first leg of a UEFA Champions League quarter-final match Wednesday. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

Villarreal pulled off another surprising Champions League result with a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

After making it past the group stage and eliminating Juventus in the round of 16, the modest Spanish club took a big step toward reaching the semifinals by holding on to a slim victory against favourite Bayern at the La Ceramica Stadium.

Arnaut Danjuma's goal early in the first half was enough for Villarreal, with Bayern unable to get past the solid defense of Unai Emery's squad and losing only for the second time in 30 Champions League matches.

Bayern was unbeaten in its last 22 away games in the Champions League, with 17 wins and five draws in a record run that had started after a loss in 2017 to a Paris Saint-Germain team coached by Emery.

The return leg is next week in Munich, where Villarreal will need a draw to get to the semifinals for the first time since its first last-four appearance in the Champions League in 2006.

Villarreal looked in control from the start and Bayern struggled to create significant scoring chances. The hosts threatened the most and had some good chances to add to its lead.

Danjuma opened the scoring in the eighth minute by redirecting a close-range shot by Dani Parejo as the Bayern defense was caught off guard. It was Danjuma's sixth goal in nine Champions League appearances this season, and seventh in 11 career games in the competition.

Villarreal thought it had doubled the lead in the 41st but Francis Coquelin's goal from a tough angle was disallowed for offside.

Striker Gerard Moreno twice had opportunities to add to Villarreal's lead after that. First with a low shot from outside the area that hit the post in the 53rd, and 10 minutes later after intercepting a bad pass by Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer near midfield and missing his long-range shot into the open net. The ball ended up curling too much as Neuer desperately tried to run back into position.

Bayern increased the pressure near the end but again it was Villarreal that nearly added to the lead when substitute Alfonso Pedraza missed from close range on a counterattack in the 87th.

Villarreal did a good job containing Robert Lewandowski throughout the match and he had few opportunities inside the area. He entered the match as the Champions League's leading scorer with 12 goals from eight matches and had scored seven goals in his last five games in all competitions. The Poland striker is ranked third on the all-time list of Champions League scorers, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Bayern's Canadian player Alphonso Davies made his first appearance since Dec. 17 after a long injury layoff because of cardiac issues.

Villarreal, based in a city of about 50,000 people, is playing in the quarterfinals for the first time in 13 years. It qualified for the Champions League by winning last season's Europa League.

Bayern was eliminated by PSG at this stage last season. The German club made it to the last eight 10 times in the last 11 seasons. The team is playing in the quarterfinals for a record 20th time.

The winner will play either Benfica or Liverpool in the semifinals. Liverpool won the first leg in Lisbon 3-1.

Benzema fires Madrid past Chelsea

Make that back-to-back Champions League hat tricks for Karim Benzema.

Defending champion Chelsea was on the receiving end this time as the 34-year-old forward showed his enduring scoring quality by leading Real Madrid to a 3-1 win Wednesday in the first leg of the quarterfinals.

Having already turned around the last-16 meeting against Paris Saint-Germain with a treble, Benzema is almost single-handedly keeping the Spanish giant on the path to a 14th European Cup. The France forward now has 37 goals in 36 games in all competitions this season.

His first two at Stamford Bridge were thumping first-half headers in the driving rain, while the third was gifted to him in a manner that raised doubts about whether Chelsea can muster a comeback in Madrid on Tuesday.

The west London club had given itself hope of recovering when Kai Havertz reduced the deficit with a header five minutes before halftime.

But only a minute of the second half had elapsed when Chelsea's slack defending proved so costly.

Edouard Mendy was about 30 yards out from goal when the ball came to him and the goalkeeper brought it down with his chest. Rather than clearing down the field, he sent a short pass tamely to the dawdling Antonio Rudiger. It was a gift for Benzema to intercept before striking into the unprotected net with Mendy still stranded outside the penalty area.

The precision of Benzema's first-half headers — after getting on the end of crosses from Vinicius Jr. and Luka Modric — was in contrast to the shortcomings of Chelsea's No. 9. Substitute Romelu Lukaku had a great chance with a header of his own when there was still more than 20 minutes to go, but glanced it wide of the post, resulting in groans around Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's only consolation perhaps is that away goals don't carry extra weight anymore as it targets an unlikely comeback in the Spanish capital.

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