Real Madrid dump Pochettino, PSG out of UCL as Benzema brilliance ruins Mbappe magic

Karim Benzema, David Alaba Real Madrid v PSG February 2022

Real Madrid sensationally came from behind thanks to a Karim Benzema hat-trick to dump Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League in incredible style.

PSG headed to the Santiago Bernabeu for the last-16 second-leg tie with a 1-0 lead from the first encounter. And they had a clear game plan for the trip to Spain – to sit back and hit Madrid on the counter-attack.

It worked to perfection when Kylian Mbappe – who got the first goal of the tie – made it 2-0 on aggregate. He could have had more if it were not for some smart saves and the offside flag.

And while the failure to cement their advantage cost them, a major second-half capitulation was the bigger culprit. After Benzema got his first goal, panic set in among Mauricio Pochettino‘s PSG ranks.

Madrid subsequently hunted in packs, with Benzema the leader in each wave of attacks. And it was the 34-year-old who made it 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate in a sensational turnaround.

Madrid understandably had the brighter start, their passing crisper and possession tidier. Still, PSG were happy to sit in and wait to get their own game plan going.

Mbappe consequently got away on the counter-attack twice in the first 15 minutes. However, Thibaut Courtois – who was a busy man in the Madrid goal – denied him on both occasions.

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Neymar forced a third, more simple, save from Courtois before Benzema’s first-time curler from the left had Gianluigi Donnarumma sprawling across to tip the ball wide at the other end.

In a more intricate move, Lionel Messi played a one-two with Neymar. However, the Argentine’s reverse chip missed the goal and any lurking PSG team-mates.

Mbappe thought he had put PSG in front after 34 minutes, but Nuno Mendes was offside in the build-up.

Mbappe magic – but not enough

Kylian Mbappe, Neymar Real Madrid v PSG February 2022

Nevertheless, another successful counter-attack five minutes later counted. Leandro Paredes nicked the ball and got it to Neymar, who sent Mbappe away. The France striker angled his body to shoot across Courtois, before smashing the ball past the near post despite a touch from the goalkeeper.

Benzema was not as clinical with two headers either side of the opener, firing wide and straight at Donnarumma.

After a slow start to the second half, Mbappe was unfortunate to have the offside flag rule out another goal featuring a wondrous piece of skill.

He got in with an audacious step-over past Courtois, but Madrid held their line well to trigger the offside trap.

But if that was good decision-making from the Real Madrid defence, it was anything but from Donnarumma at the other end as Madrid got back into the tie.

Benzema forces massive PSG capitulation

Karim Benzema, Marco Verratti Real Madrid v PSG March 2022

The Italy goalkeeper dithered with the ball in his box under pressure from Benzema, who forced a sloppy pass from the stopper straight to Vinicius Junior. Vinicius picked up the pieces to hand Benzema an easy finish.

The momentum both on the pitch and in the Santiago Bernabeu crowd switched immediately. Indeed, PSG wobbled and ultimately capitulated.

Luka Modric, 36, rolled back the years by breaking through the PSG lines and sending Vinicius away. The Brazilian cut inside back to the Croatian, whose ball through the eye of the needle got Benzema in.

And the 34-year-old, with the help of a deflection, made it 2-1 and 2-2 on aggregate.

But immediately after the kick-off, Benzema notched an incredible Champions League hat-trick to dump PSG out.

It therefore went from the Mbappe show to the Benzema show, the striker’s first-time finish accurate into the right corner of Donnarumma’s net.

Madrid had further chances to seal what was, in the end, an emphatic win given PSG’s crumble.

Meanwhile, Messi had a free-kick in added time, but could only fire over for PSG – much to the delight of the Madrid fans behind the goal.

Madrid dug deep to book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals. However, the result plunges Pochettino’s future as PSG boss into serious doubt, with another chance at European triumph gone for the French giants.