New Telegraph

UEFA League: Benzema hat-trick as Real send PSG out in thriller

  • Man City also progress

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, reports the BBC.

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.

PSG suffer another painful exit

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.

This felt every bit as shattering as La Remontada in 2017 their last-16 defeat to Manchester United in 2019 and was even more remarkable given they had not lost a Champions League game away from home after leading at half-time since 2001.

While PSG are runaway leaders in Ligue 1 and have been crowned French champions in seven of the past nine seasons, domestic success is not the barometer Pochettino will be judged by come the end of the season.

And alarmingly the Argentine and his stunned players were unable to provide any adequate response once the tide had turned in this contest.

Julian Draxler and Angel di Maria were only introduced once the Parisiens were chasing the game, and aside from a late Messi free-kick which dipped just over, they were unable to conjure a single clear-cut goalscoring opportunity as they meekly exited the tournament.

And Manchester City cruised into the quarter-finals of the Champions League despite being held at home by a Sporting Lisbon side who were intent on damage limitation.

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 did not entertain any hope of an unlikely comeback.

They packed their defence, perhaps wary of suffering another damaging defeat, leaving Pep Guardiola’s side in total control of possession but struggling to carve out meaningful chances.

Raheem Sterling wasted City’s best opportunity before the break when he ran on to Phil Foden’s pass and tried to dink the ball over Antonio Adan but did not get enough height on his shot.

Gabriel Jesus did find the net for the home side at the start of the second half but a VAR review ruled he was offside from Riyad Mahrez’s pass and the goal was disallowed.

Despite being unable to make the breakthrough, City remained completely comfortable and Guardiola was relaxed enough to bring on third-choice keeper Scott Carson for Ederson with 20 minutes remaining.

The 36-year-old, making his first appearance of the season, was quickly called into action to deny Paulinho from close range, bringing chants of ‘England’s number one’ from the delighted City fans.

City are into the quarter-finals for the fifth successive season, and will find out their opponents in the last eight on 18 March.

RESULTS

• Man City 0 – 0 Sporting

(Agg 5-0)

• Real Madrid 3 – 1 PSG

(Agg 3-2)

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