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Breaking: Benzema’s Hat Trick secures Quarter final Ticket for Real Madrid against PSG

Just as PSG seemed to go into cruise control in its Champions League round-of-16 second leg vs. Real Madrid, Karim Benzema lit up Europe’s biggest stage like a flash of lightning. 

With Real Madrid down 2–0 on aggregate with 30 minutes left, the French forward scored a second-half hat trick in 17 minutes to complete an epic comeback for his club and send PSG clashing out of champions League in the first knockout round. 

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In the first leg, Kylian Mbappé’s dramatic winner for PSG proved to be the difference, and the French superstar added another for good measure in the 39th minute. But Benzema would take over, starting in the 61st minute before adding a second in the 76th and a third just two minutes later. 

With the win, Real joins Liverpool, Man City and Bayern Munich among the final eight. 

Real Madrid’s work rate in the final half-hour echoed its start when it came out of the gates with bundles of energy. But the best chance of the opening 10 minutes went to PSG on the counter. After Lionel Messi tracked back to pick the ball off Benzema, Mbappé sprinted away from the Real defense down the left wing before seeing his shot stopped by Thibaut Courtois. 

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A Neymar giveaway in the 12th minute nearly saw Real equalize as Dani Carvajal’s string from distance just fizzled wide of the post. Mbappé then returned with another chance on the left wing that forced Courtois into action more than on the opening chance. 

In the 22nd minute, as PSG began to temper Real’s energy, Mbappé and Marco Verratti set up a straightforward chance for Neymar at the edge of the area but the Brazilian star scuffed it, making for an easy save for Courtois.

Three minutes later, Benzema launched a curling effort from the edge of the area as both teams anticipated a foul, forcing Gianluigi Donnarumma into a fingertip save on what could have been a stunning opening goal. 

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Messi came close to putting PSG ahead in the 31st minute when he combined for a one-two with Neymar. The Argentine superstar then popped a shot over a sliding Courtois from a harsh angle that floated wide. Minutes later, Mbappé seemed to put PSG ahead with a goal but the referee’s assistant raised the offside flag on the run that provided that assist. 

The French star didn’t have to wait long for one that counted, striking on the counter attack in the 39th minute. Sprung loose by a pass in midfield from Neymar, Mbappé sprinted away before setting his feet and fooling Courtois with a low shot at the near post to give PSG the 1–0 (2–0 aggregate) lead. 

Out of the halftime break, PSG still managed to control the pace and, in the 54th minute, Mbappé seemed to add to the French giant’s lead. After taking a through ball down the left, the star juked past Courtois with an incredible move and fired into the back of the net before being called offside.  

While all seemed to be going well for PSG, all it took was one small mistake for Real Madrid to pull one back. Donnarumma dallied for too long with the ball at his feet and Benzema forced the PSG keeper into hurried pass across his own goal. Vinicius then picked out Benzema in front of goal for the equalizer (2–1 agg. to PSG) in the 61st.  

Real Madrid continued to put PSG on edge with Vinicius coming close to giving the Spanish giant a lead at home. After Benzema’s cross was deflected to the Brazilian following another poor PSG clearance, Vinicius sent his open chance over the goal. 

But in the 76th minute, Benzema set the Bernabéu alight when he took a pass from Luka Modrić inside the area and saw his deflected shot go in for the 2–1 lead. 

And the French international wasn’t done there. Benzema secured his hat trick in the 78th when he pounced on Marquinhos’s errant clearance inside the penalty area. The goal came just seconds after the restart following his second goal to give Real a 3–2 aggregate lead. 

In the 91st minute, Messi had PSG’s last real chances to get back in the game with a free kick from just outside the penalty area, but the star’s curling shot passed just over the outstretched arm of Courtois. 

For PSG, its hopes of an elusive Champions League trophy in the Messi era will have to wait another year, while Real Madrid’s search for a 14th European title continues.

Source: Sports Illustrator

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