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 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.
Real Madrid: Courtois (7), Carvajal (6), Militao (6), Alaba (6), Nacho (6), Valverde (6), Kroos (6), Modric (7), Vinicius Jr (7), Benzema (10), Asensio (5).
Subs: Vazquez (6), Camavinga (6), Rodrygo (6).
Away Team: Donnarumma (4), Hakimi (6), Marquinhos (5) , Kimpembe (5), Mendes (6), Paredes (6), Pereira (6), Verratti (5), Messi (5), Mbappe (8), Neymar (7).
Subs: Gueye (5), Di Maria (N/A), Draxler (N/A)
Man of the match: Benzema.
It was five years ago on Tuesday that PSG were beaten 6-1 at the Nou Camp as Barcelona pulled off a record-breaking comeback from four goals down in the first leg.
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.
- Kylian Mbappe started the game despite a late injury scare
- Gianluigi Donarumma was preferred in goal over Keylor Navas
- Toni Kroos (hamstring) and Federico Valverde (flu) returned to Real Madrid’s starting XI
- Casemiro and Ferland Mendy were unavailable through suspension
Mbappe, who scored the only goal in the first leg, was a constant threat up until the equalsier 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.
Record-breaking Benzema saves Real
With just 30 minutes left of tie, Real Madrid’s fate looked sealed, and it felt inevitable that PSG would progress.
That all changed, though, with a moment of perseverance from 34-year-old Benzema, whose pressure forced Donnarumma into a mistake that proved to be the catalyst for an epic Champions League comeback.
His tenacity continued to drive Real forward as he put the ball in the net twice with just 10 seconds of open play separating the two goals.
It was a talismanic performance from the Frenchman, who took his place among Real Madrid royalty by overtaking Alfredo Di Stefano as the club’s third-highest scorer, behind only Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He also moves ahead of Raul (66) as Real’s second-highest scorer in the Champions League on 67 goals, with only Ronaldo ahead (105).
Ancelotti: It was the magic of this stadium
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said: “We suffered a lot in the first half, but we did it. We had trouble getting the ball. We tried to press… But it was a good press from Karim that brought us the first goal, and after that the magic of this stadium and these fans came with it.”
Real Madrid forward Benzema said: “We needed the fans and this is for them. It was a very difficult game but we pushed until the end and we deserve the win.
“We lost the first leg, they went 1-0 up, but our fans pushed us to give everything right to the final whistle.”
On his first goal, he added: “It’s not a mistake [by Donnarumma]. It’s pressure from the whole team.”
Poch: I’m upset – the next few weeks won’t be easy
PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino said: “The first goal completely changed the game. For an hour, we were better than Real Madrid. The atmosphere changed in the stadium.
“We made some mistakes after that, we can’t say we didn’t. The worst feeling is that we were the better side, but we lost the tie in 10 minutes.
“Paris St-Germain have been chasing the Champions League for a number of years now. I’m really disappointed, upset – but these things can happen. The next few weeks are not going to be easy.”
When is the Champions League QF draw?
The Champions League quarter-final draw will take place on Friday, March 18 at 11am UK time, with the balls being drawn out at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
The semi-finals will be drawn at the same time, meaning clubs and fans can plot out their potential route to the Paris final.
You will be able to follow the draw across Sky Sports’ digital platforms.
Real Madrid travel to Real Mallorca in La Liga on Monday; kick-off 8pm. Carlo Ancelotti’s side boast an eight-point lead at the top of the table, with 11 games left. Paris Saint-Germain host Bordeaux in Ligue 1 on Sunday; kick-off 12pm. PSG, who were beaten by second-placed Nice in their previous Ligue 1 outing, are 13 points clear at the top of the table with 11 games remaining.