Karim Benzema put Real Madrid through to the round of 16
When the final whistle blew at the Santiago Bernabeu, no one could really say they were surprised by the final result.
On one side, you had a Real Madrid side with a wealth of experience and, most importantly, success in the Champions League. On the other, you had a PSG side notorious for Champions League blunders despite reaching the final against Bayern Munich a season ago.
History does tend to repeat itself and so it did as a second half Karim Benzema hat trick knocked PSG out of the Champions League.
The Parisians managed to take the lead late in the first half thanks to Kylian Mbappe. The French star finished off a counter after a nice pass from Neymar put him one-on-one against David Alaba. The center-back was unable to close Mbappe down as his shot deflected off the hand of Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.
Some may have felt the goal put the tie to bed as PSG cut Madrid open so easily. Needing a goal, the feeling was they’d have more opportunities with the home side pushing forward for an equalizer.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men seemed to have things under control to start the second half. However, a mistake by Gianluigi Donnarumma breathed life into Real Madrid. The goalkeeper tried to play out from the back but made a weak pass after some pressure from Benzema. Madrid recovered inside the box and the pass was made to Benzema who was never going to miss.
That gift was all Madrid needed and they were off to the races.
The momentum shifted completely after the Donnarumma blunder. Fifteen minutes after Benzema equalized with a pass from Luka Modric, showing why he’s still one of the most talented midfielders despite being 36 years old.
Five minutes later, Benzema got his hat trick to put the final nail in PSG’s coffin.
PSG were left stunned and had no response. They seemed unable to comprehend what was going as some players fell to the pitch at the final whistle.
The front three of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar could not pull PSG back into the proceedings which culminated into another disastrous night for a side who are obsessed with finally winning the Champions League.
As for Real Madrid, it was simply another chapter in a book filled with magical nights in Europe’s premier competition. Benzema was the hero on the night as he continues to be Madrid’s best player.
“We wanted to see this stadium like the fans were today, we needed them, the win is for them; it was very difficult, we pushed until the end and we deserved to go through,” Benzema said postmatch.
“We lost the first leg, we were 1-0 down at half-time, it was a huge effort, the fans pushed us to give everything until the end. They’re Champions League games, it’s difficult. We know PSG like to have the ball. We started well, we had chances, we didn’t take them and they scored on the counter, but in the second half we played our game.”
Real Madrid are now through to the quarterfinals and despite their shaky form in LaLiga — where they still lead by eight points — they should be a team the remaining sides fear. They are the most successful side in the Champions League for a reason. When they have to, they pull something out of nothing and find a way to win.