Karim Benzema’s second-half hat-trick secured Real Madrid a place in the Champions League quarter-finals as they came back from 2-0 down on aggregate to win 3-2 and send Paris Saint-Germain crashing out of Europe.
Kylian Mbappe opened the scoring to extend PSG’s advantage from the first leg – after getting on the end of Neymar’s first-time left-footed through ball – with a near-post finish (39) that Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could only get a touch on.
PSG were in cruise control at the Bernabeu until Real Madrid were offered a lifeline by Gianluigi Donnarumma, as Benzema forced him into a mistake in his own area before finishing off Vinicius Jr’s cut back.
Benzema’s deflected effort from close range levelled the tie after an intricate Luka Modric pass split the PSG defence, and just 10 seconds after the visitors kicked off, the Real captain completed his 17-minute hat-trick with a neat first-time finish following a poor clearance from Marquinhos as PSG crumbled again in Europe.
Benzema, who became the oldest player to score a Champions League hat-trick on Wednesday night, overtakes Alfredo Di Stefano as Real Madrid’s third-highest scorer on 309 goals.
“We lost in the first leg, we were losing at the break… It was very hard, but this is a Champions League match and we are Real Madrid,” Benzema, captain of the 13-time Champions League winners, said after the game.
Mbappe, who scored the only goal in the first leg, was a constant threat up until the equaliser and had the ball in the back of the net three times on the night, only for two to be ruled offside.
The France forward will feel hard done by after an impressive performance against the side that tried to sign him in the summer, showing no sign of distraction despite intense speculation linking him with a move to Real.
The hosts came closest in the first half through Benzema, whose curling first-time effort was kept out by a fingertip save from Donnarumma, with the scores on the night still level.
Benzema, making his 500th start for Real in all competitions, also spurned two opportunities with his head in the first half, missing the target and tamely nodding the other into the arms of Donnarumma.
Deja vu for PSG in Europe
PSG have been here before. Two goals ahead against Manchester United after the first leg in 2019, four goals ahead of Barcelona in 2017. This time it was half an hour left, with two goals to the good.
This was the fourth time out of nine that they have been knocked out of the Champions League when winning the first leg – only Real Madrid have done so more often (six times).
The mentality of their star-studded line-up was weak – perhaps scarred by the mistakes of the past – and they failed to recover after Donnarumma gifted Benzema his opener.
PSG players hardly had their head up after Benzema’s second before he made it 3-1 on the night and gave Real the crucial goal to send them through.
The Qatari owners’ search for a Champions League trophy goes on, even the addition of Lionel Messi in the summer could not get them beyond the last 16, with the former Barcelona man anonymous on his return to Spain.
What lies ahead for PSG remains uncertain, with big question marks over the future of head coach Mauricio Pochettino.
Sporting director Leonardo insists Pochettino remains part of the project, but failure to lift the Champions League has only ended in one outcome for managers at PSG under the current owners. Just ask Thomas Tuchel, Unai Emery, Laurent Blanc and Carlo Ancelotti.
Source – Sky