Christian Pulisic became the first United States men’s international to score a goal in a Champions League semifinal after netting in the first half of Chelsea‘s 1-1 first-leg draw with Real Madrid on Tuesday.
The goal was also Pulisic’s fifth in the Champions League, moving him ahead of DaMarcus Beasley on the all-time U.S. men’s scoring list in European football’s premier competition.
Pulisic found himself alone in the penalty area on 14 minutes and cut to his right, beating Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois and firing between two defenders to give Chelsea an early lead.
Karim Benzema scored to draw the hosts level later in the first half, leaving both teams with all to play for in next week’s return leg at Stamford Bridge.
After the match, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said: “The goal was well deserved and we should have scored at least one more. We conceded more or less out of nothing and that can always happen against individual quality.
“It was a disappointing score at half-time. We had to stay calm and not lose confidence. The second half was very tactical, you could feel that we are a bit tired. We only had a few days to recover from another tough away game. We have to live with 1-1.”
The 22-year-old Pulisic also scored in the knockout round in 2017 when he was still with Borussia Dortmund and is now the youngest player to score for Chelsea in the semifinals of the UCL or later, passing Ramires, who did it at 25 years old against Barcelona in 2012.
Adding to the list of firsts for Pulisic, he is also now the first U.S. international to score in any competition against Real Madrid.
“It was a great finish, great composure,” Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta said. “He’s an amazing player, he’s a young player, he’s growing and improving. I’m very pleased with his goal because he’s an important player for the team.”
Two U.S. women’s team players have scored in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semis or later already — Carli Lloyd did it in 2017 while on loan with Manchester City, and Alana Cook did it last weekend in Paris Saint-Germain’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona.
Pulisic has battled injuries throughout his career, and Tuchel claimed earlier this month that he needed to learn to trust his body again after dealing with nagging issues dating to a hamstring problem suffered in last August’s FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal.
Tuchel’s first game in charge took place on Jan. 27 against Wolves, but Pulisic did not start a Premier League game until March 13.
However, the 22-year-old has started six of Chelsea’s past eight matches across all competitions, and he said prior to the Madrid match: “I feel very confident in my body and my fitness level at the moment. I have played a string of games.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a player who is injury prone or anything. Obviously, I had some time out in the past year and a bit. It is really just about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every single game. I feel good about that right now.”