Robson: Chelsea had too much to overcome from their first leg vs. Real Madrid (1:00)

The game was a perfect one from a tactical point of view, but too big of a deficit to overcome. (1:00)

7:45 PM ET

There is no preferred way to surrender your crown, but this is the closest thing to it.

When asked on the eve of the game how champions bow out of a competition if it has to be their time, Thomas Tuchel replied by not accepting it before it ends. By leaving everything on the pitch that we have and by showing we can work harder, play better, that we know we can take more risks and that we show our true face, we can live up to our full potential.

They did that. The title defence ended in the quarterfinals, with the Blues winning in extra-time but losing in the aggregate.

It was clear from the way they played that they are Herculean in spirit, heroically defiant in the face of adversity, cleverly deployed by one of the game's elite coaches but ultimately flawed in the final third.

There was a difference in how long it took to finish. The final goal of the night was scored by Benzema in the 96th minute, his fourth of the night. He was on hand to deliver what proved to be the knockout blow after he hit the bar with an effort earlier in the game. His individual xG was lower than Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic, who only played the final 37 minutes, but missed two glorious chances to explain his xG of 0.61.

Benzema's clinical touch and a truly magnificent assist from Luka Modric were the moments of efficiency that were missing.

Tuchel said that they were very disappointed and proud at the same time.

They did not create a lot at the bridge, but they converted every chance they got. This was enough. We were not able to reduce it to an absolute minimum over the two legs.

I think we deserved to go through. There are no regrets, even though we were unlucky. These are the kind of losses you can take pride in and accept as a sportsman.

Acrimony, anger and dirty tricks were used in the battle for the title.

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In the first half, Real was pinned back in their own half by a mixture of intelligent pressing, midfield control and mental fortitude as they were pinned back by a three goal lead. There was an element of luck about Mason Mount's opener, as the England international showed superb composure to slot a finish past Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The fans tucked away in the mid-renovation rafters of the stadium felt the comeback was on.

Antonio Rudiger and Mateo Kovacic had reasons to celebrate early on in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against Real Madrid, but Chelsea couldn't hold on. Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Antonio Rudiger headed Mount's 51st-minute corner into the net to haul Chelsea level on aggregate, and when Marcus Alonso thrashed a shot past Courtois just after the hour mark, they were ahead in the tie. The VAR ruled out Alonso's effort for an unfortunate but perceptible handball and briefly checked the progress of the team. Benzema hit the bar, but still they came forward.

Courtois had to make a save after a 75th-minute pass through from Mateo Kovacic, who cut inside on his right foot and steered a shot towards the goal. Real had been passive to that point, seemingly unable to shift gears after trying to contain Chelsea for long periods, but Modric conjured a pass out of thin air to resurrect their hopes.

The ball was lifted over Thiago Silva by Modric with the outside of his right foot and Rodrygo steered it past Mendy to set up extra-time.

Thomas Tuchel exits the Champions League quarterfinal round with reasons for regret and reasons for pride after Chelsea fought back in Madrid. David Ramos/Getty Images

Tuchel warned that Real had a physical advantage due to the LaLiga's use of five substitution compared to the three used in the English league. Vinicius Junior was in space on the left, checking back before finding a cross for Benzema to convert in a goal that bore more than a passing resemblance to the opener in the first leg.

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Havertz headed wide when he was in the box after having a shot beaten away by Courtois at the near post. Jorginho dragged another effort off target in a frantic finale which left Tuchel directing his frustration in all directions, including the Polish referee.

Tuchel suggested officials lackcourage to give big decisions, something he could not level at his players after a performance that was more resilient.

A highly competitive unit that knows how to compete for trophies is what the four remaining bidders are buying. It is one that needs investment if they are to continue to fight like this.