With the ball at Christian Pulisic’s right foot, the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal Wednesday seemed to freeze for a split second. Chelsea was closing in on a place in the final, but a night of missed opportunities had imperiled its narrow lead against Real Madrid in west London.

Pulisic, the U.S. star, flashed his poise and patience deep in the penalty area, paralyzing the goalkeeper between him and the near post. He waited for teammate Mason Mount to cut into position, then delivered the cross.

Mount stabbed it into the net, and after almost 90 nervy minutes at Stamford Bridge, with tensions rising after each squandered chance by the hosts and each foray by the visitors, the Blues were home free: a 2-0 victory for a 3-1 aggregate triumph and a berth in the May 29 championship game against Manchester City in Istanbul.

For the second time in three seasons, two English Premier League clubs will clash for European club soccer’s greatest prize. And for the first time, a U.S. men’s national team player (Pulisic) is likely to play in the final while another Pennsylvanian (Manchester City backup goalkeeper Zack Steffen, from the University of Maryland) will be in uniform.

One day after Manchester City eliminated Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea ousted the Spanish club that has won a record 13 continental titles.

Timo Werner provided the lead in the 28th minute before the substitute Pulisic and Mount combined for the 85th-minute goal.

“It’s been a long road to get to here,” Mount said. “We’ve been through tough, tough teams. And we’ve done it. … We’re very confident now going into the final. Hopefully we can win, and then it will be the cherry atop a very good season.”

It was a deserving victory. Although the outcome hung in the balance until almost the end, Chelsea was unfazed by the Spanish titans and superior in every facet.

Real Madrid “can turn from nothing into two goals, so you are always on the edge,” Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel said. “You hang in there, even if you have big chances. You miss, you miss, you miss again but never lose concentration, never lose the focus, never lose the positive energy.”

Pulisic, 22, played a late role after entering in the 67th minute.

“I know what I have to do when I get onto the field,” he said. “I’ve got to do my bit and try to finish the game off strong.”

Pulisic was conspicuously absent from Chelsea’s starting lineup, eight days after he scored in the first leg in Madrid. He had been in terrific form since he returned to regular duty six weeks ago, scoring four goals and influencing the attack with confident runs.

Tuchel did not drop him Wednesday because of injury or a slip in performance. Rather, he selected a player in supreme form, Kai Havertz, who scored twice Saturday in a Premier League victory over Fulham, and paired him with German teammate Werner.

Pulisic said he was “very frustrated. I wanted to play from the beginning as I always do. I have had to continue to prove myself over and over again.”

He proved himself in the first meeting. Although the Blues earned a draw, they believed they could have won and taken a commanding edge into the return leg.

The onus Wednesday was on Real Madrid because, if no one scored, Chelsea would advance on the away-goal tiebreaker. And that’s the way it played out at the start, with the visitors probing for opportunity and Chelsea taking a physical and disruptive approach.

Since his appointment in January, Tuchel has emphasized defense. Wednesday’s result gave the Blues 17 shutouts in 24 matches across all competitions since his arrival. Chelsea has conceded multiple goals only twice.

Edouard Mendy, a 6-foot-6 goalkeeper, blanked the visitors in the first half by extending fully to push aside Karim Benzema’s 20-yard bid and soaring to touch Benzema’s close-range header.

Chelsea did not sit back, though, and the opportunities began to surface. Tight, one-touch passing unlocked Real Madrid’s central resistance. N’Golo Kante set up Havertz for a chip over charging goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The shot struck the crossbar and floated to Werner a step from the target for the easiest of headers.

After intermission, Chelsea smelled blood. Another goal would have left little doubt about its place in the final. Havertz almost got it less than two minutes into the half, heading off the crossbar. Mount missed the mark after drawing Courtois off his line.

“We could’ve had five,” Mount said.

Chelsea was as comfortable as a team with a one-goal lead against a formidable foe could be. Two more huge chances passed, allowing Real Madrid to cling to hope.

Pulisic brought pace and energy. Not seriously threatened, the Blues appeared on their way to victory. Pulisic and Mount left no doubt.

Pulisic took the ball to the end line, freezing Courtois, who tried to protect against both a shot and cross. The American waited for the right moment before he found Mount at the edge of the six-yard box.

The tension was broken. The Blues of Chelsea were on their way to a showdown with the Sky Blues of Manchester City.

“We never lost the hunger. We never lost the desire to defend in the first half,” said Tuchel, who guided Paris Saint-Germain to last year’s final. “The second half was even better structure to defend. It was a fantastic performance.”

— Steven Goff

Read highlights of Chelsea vs. Real Madrid below.

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Chelsea through to its first Champions League final since 2012

9:04 p.m.
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Had Chelsea allowed Real Madrid to equalize in the second half, players would have no one to blame but themselves. But despite a litany of missed opportunities to emphasize their control, Christian Pulisic came from the bench to punctuate the Blues’ victory with an 85th minute assist to Mason Mount, which helped secure Chelsea’s passage into the Champions League final, 2-0, for a 3-1 aggregate victory. They will meet Premier League foe Manchester City later this month.

Werner overcame the sting of his own missed opportunities early Wednesday. Ben Chilwell set up his go-ahead goal early on, but Werner was called offside.

In the 28th minute, his timing was more ideal. Kai Havertz flicked a shot over Thibaut Courtois. The ball bounced off the crossbar and Werner arrived to head it into the net.

Real Madrid certainly threatened. But goalkeeper Edouard Mendy anchored Chelsea’s defense.

Chelsea squandered opportunities to put the match out of reach, but in the waning minutes, Pulisic paused by the endline and picked out Mount, who didn’t miss the chance to propel Chelsea back to the final for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Pulisic’s assist propels Chelsea toward the final

8:52 p.m.
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Christian Pulisic paused at the endline, surveyed his options and quickly sent a pass in to Mason Mount, who flicked the ball into the back of the net give Chelsea a decisive second goal in the waning minutes of its second-leg match against Real Madrid.

Chelsea struggling to finish second-half chances

8:32 p.m.
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Real Madrid has consistently escaped danger throughout the early minutes of the second half.

Less than two minutes into the period, Kai Havertz sent a powerful header off the crossbar after a promising cross from César Azpilicueta. Thiago Silva struck his header just above the crossbar in the 52nd minute.

The chances have become more auspicious through the half.

Mason Mount had a great chance moments after Silva’s miss. He broke free in the right side of the box but could not finish. In the 59th minute, Havertz received the ball with Sergio Ramos giving chase, but Thibaut Courtois met and repelled the challenge. Courtois rescued Real Madrid once more in the 66th minute, blocking a shot from N’Golo Kanté on a threatening counterattack.

Chelsea leads Real Madrid at halftime after Werner goal

8:00 p.m.
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Timo Werner capitalized on one of a handful of promising first half opportunities to put Chelsea ahead 1-0 in its second-leg bout against Real Madrid. The Blues lead 2-1 on aggregate, although a second-half Madrid goal would force extra time.

Chelsea created more chances with less possession (68 percent to 32 percent in Madrid’s favor) in a relatively even first half.

Early on, Werner put Chelsea ahead when he scored on a pass from Ben Chilwell, but he was called offside. He scored in the 28th minute as he followed a Kai Havertz rebound, heading the ball into an open net from close range.

Karim Benzema erased Chelsea’s lead 15 minutes after the Blues seized it in the first leg. But goalkeeper Edouard Mendy made four fantastic saves to maintain Chelsea’s advantage on Wednesday.

Chelsea takes the lead on Werner goal

7:42 p.m.
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N’Golo Kanté has been a persistent force through the Champions League semifinal, hounding opposing attackers and jump-starting impromptu offensives. He gave Chelsea the lead in Wednesday’s game (1-0) and on aggregate (2-1), facilitating the opening score as he advanced through Real Madrid’s defense and tapped a pass to Kai Havertz in the penalty area.

Havertz flicked the ball over Thibaut Courtois but his shot ricocheted off the crossbar. Timo Werner, who has missed quality opportunities to put Chelsea ahead in the series, pounced on the rebound, heading the ball into open net in the 28th minute.

Highlights from Tuesday: Man City dumps PSG to move one win from glory

7:29 p.m.
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Manchester City has been hoisting domestic trophies for a decade now, but its ambitions have always reached well beyond English borders. To truly take their place on European soccer’s top shelf, the Sky Blues have needed to not only sustain excellence at home but win the UEFA Champions League.

On Tuesday, they moved a step closer to continental glory by vanquishing undermanned Paris Saint-Germain, 2-0, in the second leg of their semifinal for a 4-1 aggregate victory.

They’ve won the English League Cup. They can clinch the Premier League title this weekend. And on May 29 in Istanbul, they’ll play in the Champions League final for the first time in the competition’s 66 years.

“What we have done these four years is incredible,” Manager Pep Guardiola said of the seven trophies the club has won in domestic league and cup competitions since he took over midway through the 2016-17 season. “And reaching the [Champions League] final helps you to understand what we’ve done … It is so difficult. It’s the toughest one — the quality of the opponents, the composure you have to have to have [during] the toughest moments. And we did it.”

Real Madrid pursues 17th Champions League final appearance

6:57 p.m.
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Real Madrid travels to London looking to defeat Chelsea in its first competitive match at Stamford Bridge. Although they played to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Spain, Los Blancos fly north needing to win or play to a high-scoring draw because away goals serve as a tiebreaker.

Real Madrid’s 16 European Cup/Champions League final appearances are already the most of any club. As it contends for No. 17, several regulars have regained their fitness.

Captain Sergio Ramos missed the first leg and will see his first action since March. He and Ferland Mendy return after injuries — Ramos also tested positive for coronavirus last month. Keeping along the backline, Marcelo is available from the bench after being released from polling station duty in Madrid. Dani Carvajal (hamstring), Lucas Vázquez (knee), Raphaël Varane (adductor) are unavailable.

Karim Benzema, whose 29th-minute goal tied the first leg match against Chelsea, can become the outright fourth top scorer in the competition’s history if he scores in this game.

Ramos, Mendy return for Real Madrid

6:43 p.m.
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Starting 11: Thibaut Courtois; Ferland Mendy, Éder Militão, Sergio Ramos, Nacho, Eden Hazard, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić, Karim Benzema, Vinícius Júnior

Pulisic omitted from Chelsea’s starting lineup

6:36 p.m.
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Starting 11: Edouard Mendy; Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rüdiger, César Azpilicueta, Jorginho, N’Golo Kanté, Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner

Chelsea enter second leg looking to defend advantage

6:15 p.m.
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Chelsea defeated Manchester City in April’s FA Cup semifinal. It will play City on Saturday, as the latter looks to win the Premier League title. If the Blues vastly improved defense can secure a scoreless draw against Real Madrid on Wednesday, they’ll schedule another meeting with their English counterparts later this month, earning a spot in the Champions League final one day after City cruised past Paris Saint-Germain.

Chelsea drew Real Madrid 1-1 last week after goals by Christian Pulisic — the first American to score in a Champions League semifinal — and Karim Benzema 15 minutes later. Five of Chelsea’s 12 shots threatened goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Just one of Madrid’s seven attempts — Benzema’s score — were on goal.

A similar defensive showing could propel Chelsea into the final for the first time since 2012. Bolstered by swarming midfielder N’Golo Kanté and first-year goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Chelsea has been much-improved under coach Thomas Tuchel. It’s earned 17 clean sheets in 23 matches since Tuchel took over in late January.

Chelsea’s women’s side will compete against Real Madrid rival, FC Barcelona, in the Women’s Champions League final on May 16.

First leg highlights: Christian Pulisic’s goal gives Chelsea a big boost

5:46 p.m.
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The controversy and commotion surrounding the short-lived European Super League was cast aside for a few welcomed hours last Tuesday in rainy Madrid for the resumption of the continent’s cornerstone, the UEFA Champions League.

And on a night pitting two of the world heavyweights who nine days earlier had threatened to break from the tournament, a young American from Pennsylvania burst back into the spotlight with a first-half goal and put his club in position to reach the May 29 final.

Christian Pulisic, a 22-year-old winger from Hershey, became the first U.S. national team player to score in a Champions League semifinal, and Chelsea happily accepted a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the first of two legs.

“It’s a proud moment, but the job is nowhere near done,” Pulisic said. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”