Benzema rises to the occasion as Real Madrid come back to beat PSG
Real Madrid looked down and out against Paris Saint-Germain at half time of their Champions League last-16 second-leg tie at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night, but a second-half hat-trick by Karim Benzema has sent Los Blancos into the quarter-finals.
Kylian Mbappe scored a first-half goal to give PSG a 2-0 lead on aggregate, following his stoppage-time winner in the first leg, but the Benzema-inspired Real Madrid came back in the second 45 minutes to flip the tie on its head.
Real Madrid initially came out all guns blazing at the start of the match as they looked to grab an early goal, but PSG were causing a threat on the counter-attack, particularly through Mbappe.
The French forward, who received a warm reception from the Bernabeu crowd, forced Courtois into two low saves inside the opening 13 minutes, and then Neymar had an attempt that was comfortably dealt with almost 10 minutes later.
Benzema had the first good chance for Real Madrid to score, as Lionel Messi‘s tackle on Luka Modric saw the ball land at the feet of Los Blancos‘ No.9, who sent a curling effort towards the far post from 25 yards out that was tipped around the post by the outstretched Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Then, PSG went into another gear. First, Messi‘s dinked effort over Courtois was slightly overhit and then cleared by Nacho Fernandez at the back post, and then Mbappe got the ball in the back of the net in the 34th minute, but Nuno Mendes was narrowly offside when he received the ball.
Five minutes later, though, PSG took the lead. Having won the ball back inside their own half, Neymar played a first-time ball in behind the Real Madrid defence for Mbappe, who sized up David Alaba and then made it look like he was going towards the far post, but instead he went near and beat Courtois. That made it 1-0 to PSG and 2-0 on aggregate.
There was a feeling around the Bernabeu going into the half-time break that perhaps the tie was now beyond Real Madrid, and that was the same in the early part of the second half, too. In fact, Mbappe even scored another goal in the 54th minute, taking the ball around Courtois before firing into the empty net, but he was a yard or so offside.
But, in the 61st minute, everything changed. Donnarumma was dawdling on the ball and panicked when pressed by Benzema, which led him to pass the ball straight to Vinicius, who returned it to the Frenchman. Benzema then made no mistake in firing into the back of the net.
The hope around the Bernabeu was returning after that goal, and 15 minutes later Benzema scored again. The excellent Luka Modric won the ball back on the edge of his own box and launched a one-man counter-attack, getting past several PSG players before picking out Vinicius, who quickly gave it back to the Croatian. Modric had the awareness to then find Benzema, whose shot deflected off of Marquinhos and went past Donnarumma. Suddenly, Real Madrid were 2-1 ahead on the night and had drawn the tie level.
What came next was pure chaos. Real Madrid pressed PSG immediately from the kick-off and what ended up happening was that the ball went as far back as Marquinhos, whose loose pass went straight to Benzema, who hit a first-time shot into the back of the net. The scoreline now read 3-1 to Real Madrid.
Los Blancos managed to see off some late pressure by PSG, but in truth the Parisians had already lost mentally. Benzema has one again shown his talent to the world on what is another memorable European night for Real Madrid.