Frank Lampard called on his Chelsea players to “change the story” when they face Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge next week after they went down 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
The interim manager insisted the door remained open to the last-four ahead of the second leg, despite watching his 10-man side fail to muster a fightback in the second half in Madrid.
A red card for Ben Chilwell just before the hour mark effectively ended any hope the team had of springing a surprise against Real, after Karim Benzema had scored to give the European champions the lead in the first half.
Marco Asensio fired in a second after 74 minutes to leave Lampard’s team facing a mammoth task to rescue the tie at Stamford Bridge next Tuesday, as their last hope of rescuing a wretched season hangs by a thread.
“It’s a big challenge of course, a team of the quality of Real Madrid,” said Lampard.
“The door is open, it’s up to us if we want to kick it open further.
“Mixed emotions about the game. For a period with 11 men, we were in the game, we had some chances. I think we could do better.
“We can utilise our strengths better, especially with the wing-backs, we can be more urgent. Those are things for myself and the staff and the players to work on. I saw opportunity there that we didn’t quite take.
“The spirit was great at the end of the game was great – 10 men for half an hour, you understand a lot of things can happen.
“We have to believe. I have to be the first one to believe this is possible.”
The result meant Chelsea have failed to score in four consecutive games for the first time since 1993, with three different managers having overseen a goalless run stretching back to March 18.
Real were ruthless in dispatching the rudderless visitors, from whom the attacking life seemed to drain once Benzema had struck in what to that point had been a balanced first half.
Chelsea had an early sight of goal when Joao Felix raced clear of Eder Militao and fired at Thibaut Courtois, only for the former Blues goalkeeper to shovel the ball to safety.
It was to be the team’s best chance until substitute Mason Mount went through in added time but his shot was blocked by former Blues team-mate Antonio Rudiger.
By the time Chelsea play Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday they will have gone four weeks since they last scored.
Real will then arrive at Stamford Bridge three days later and despite the lack of firepower, Lampard remained optimistic his players have it in them to turn the tie around.
“If you don’t believe in top level sport that things will go your way… it’s a mindset and a belief,” said Lampard. “The fans will (believe). They will come and support us.
“We’re realistic, 2-0 down against Real Madrid. I’ve been involved in games that change. We’re in a different place now, maybe that’s a good thing.
“We want to change the tone, change the story. We went tonight with 10 men against Real, it’s a difficult night for the lads. I see they’re disappointed in the end. They gave everything in that final part of the game.
“It’ll be different next week. We’re not favourites. We weren’t favourites yesterday, we’re not favourites today. The possibilities are ours if we can take them.”
Real manager Carlo Ancelotti echoed Lampard’s words that the tie is not yet over and called on his players to show calm ahead of the return leg in London.
“I’m not exhausted, I’m quite well,” said the former Blues boss. “I have tonnes of energy. But obviously we have to suffer, it’s not simple to be on the bench even when you’re winning 2-0.
“I’m happy but we have to be calm and there’s another 90 minutes. In football, anything can happen. We have got to manage it properly and try to repeat the match we had tonight.
“We are satisfied with the result, with the performance. We’re satisfied only for tonight.
“It’s not over yet. We know really well Chelsea will try to do everything next week.”