While the future of Chelsea football club remains in turmoil off the pitch, the team endured a scorching night on the pitch in their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid on Wednesday.
A hat-trick for Karim Benzema inspired his side to a 3-1 win on a wet and windy night in west London, putting the Spaniards in firm control of the game ahead of the return leg.
It was a match that was promised to look very different when the draw was made.
The sanctions against Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, because of his relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, are likely to have a major impact on the club’s biggest game of the season so far.
There is uncertainty over whether any fans will be able to attend the game and travel budget restrictions have cast doubt on whether Chelsea can even participate in the Champions League at all.
But, after further clarification and working closely with the British government, it’s easy to forget the off-field issues as Stamford Bridge’s full capacity cheered on his side.
On the pitch, it was Chelsea who got off to a better start, crowding out a Madrid player who needed time to adapt — but they did it.
The visitors capitalized on a brilliant opportunity for Vinicius Jr. who hit the bar with an early effort and Chelsea ignored the early warning.
Thomas Tuchel’s men quickly found themselves two goals down after Benzema had two headers right past Edouard Mendy in a tumultuous three-minute period.
The goals were met by frenzied celebrations at the end of the game with many Madrid fans under stormy conditions.
With the semi-finals looking like a distant dream for Chelsea, the home supporters were starting to get frustrated but there was still a spin to come in a frantic first half.
Kai Havertz pulled one back with a header of his own, capitalizing on a beautiful cross from Jorginho.
But before many took their seats after the restart, Benzema scored again, this time capitalizing on some sloppy play by goalkeeper Mendy.
His pass to Antonio Rudiger was poor and the defender could do little to prevent Benzema from stealing possession and slotting it into the open net.
It was the Frenchman’s second consecutive hat-trick in the competition, following his heroics in the last 16 against Paris Saint-Germain.
Although Chelsea had more attempts and had more possession in the second half, it was the Madrid fans who danced as the home fans grew increasingly restless.
There is enough to suggest Chelsea have a chance, albeit slim, in the second leg but who knows what the club will be like then.
A number of potential owners have expressed interest in taking over at the club, but no decision has yet been made on where Chelsea will go next from here.
Abramovich himself has acted as an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine, going back and forth between Moscow, Kyiv, Istanbul, Warsaw and beyond amid a whirlwind of talks aimed at ending the conflict, his spokesman confirmed earlier this year.
All this due to the fact that a brutal war began to emerge across Ukraine as Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv region and shifted their focus to the east of the country.