Benzema hat-trick stuns PSG in Champions League
Karim Benzema scored a superb second-half hat-trick as Real Madrid produced a stirring fightback at a raucous Bernabeu to reach the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Paris St-Germain.
Kylian Mbappe’s first-half goal had given PSG a deserved two-goal aggregate lead and looked to have put Mauricio Pochettino’s side well on course for the last eight.
However, a mistake by PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma proved the catalyst for a dramatic recovery with Benzema turning home after the Italian dawdled in possession.
Luka Modric’s driving run and intricate pass made Benzema’s second as he levelled the tie against a clearly panicked PSG, and as the visitors attempted to regroup the 34-year-old drove a low effort into the bottom right corner seconds after the restart to settle the tie.
Until Donnarumma’s error PSG had been in complete control.
Marco Verratti was slick and dominant in midfield, while Neymar and Lionel Messi worked themselves into some dangerous positions as the hosts struggled to contain their more fluent opponents.
Mbappe in particular was electric, racing on to a pass from Neymar to open the scoring against the side he has been heavily tipped to join in the summer when his contract at PSG expires.
Either side of that the 23-year-old tormented the Real defence, twice having goals correctly disallowed for offside but showing his predatory instincts nonetheless.
A surge of acceleration also saw him burst past Real’s Eder Militao and only a brilliant covering challenge from David Alaba prevented him from adding to his tally.
Mbappe’s influence was such that he received warm applause from the home support as he got up after appearing to be hurt in a tackle, but the real damage to his and PSG’s long-standing aspirations in the competition were still to come.
Benzema’s 17-minute treble ensured PSG suffered another painful elimination from a competition that has become an obsession since they moved into Qatari ownership in 2011.
And after reaching the final and semi-finals in consecutive seasons this feels like a considerable backwards step for a squad that has been expensively assembled but remains prone to monumental collapses in this competition.
City cruise into next round
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he has learned to “enjoy the moment” after his side cruised into the quarter-finals of the Champions League despite being held at home by Sporting Lisbon.
It is the fifth successive season City have reached the quarter-finals, while Guardiola has managed a team to this stage for a record-equaling 12th time.
“I’m a guy who learns at the time to enjoy the moment. When I qualify for the quarter-finals, I enjoy it; when I qualify for the last 16, I know how difficult it is,” said Guardiola, who led Barcelona to two Champions League titles as their manager.
“When you go through, every opponent is difficult. Now it is time to congratulate everyone, focus on the Premier League and see the draw.”
City’s stunning 5-0 win in last month’s first leg in Lisbon had already effectively settled this tie, and it was clear from the outset that the Portuguese side did not entertain any hope of an unlikely comeback. (BBC)