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Real Madrid stage sensational comeback over PSG to reach Champions League quarter final

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Karim Benzema scored a quickfire hat-trick as Real Madrid fought back to beat Paris St Germain 3-1 on Wednesday and move into the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

Kylian Mbappe struck before half-time to put the French side 2-0 up in the last-16 tie and they created many chances to extend their lead as they dominated the first hour of the game. 

Benzema equalised in the 61st minute, however, following a bad error from PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma who mishandled the ball inside the area and gifted it to the French striker.

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Roared on by a sold-out crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and with PSG in panic mode, Benzema scored again in the 76th minute from Luka Modric’s pass and grabbed his third two minutes later after another costly mistake by a PSG defender to send the record 13-times European champions into the last eight.

“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 told reporters.

“The comeback came due to a matter of mental strength. It was not a mistake by Donnarumma, it was my pressure on him. When we pressure like that, we can beat anyone. Every game is a final for us and today we saw that Real Madrid is alive.”

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PSG were aggressive from the start and knew exactly how to take advantage of Real’s uncoordinated attempts to put them under pressure, which left space for Neymar and Mbappe to exploit.

Mbappe had an effort ruled out after the video assistant referee spotted a narrow offside before putting PSG ahead when he ran on to a fine pass by Neymar.

The French side continued to dominate possession until Benzema took advantage of Donnarumma’s error, a goal PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino felt should have been disallowed.

“It’s a disgrace that in 2022 a goal like that stands, it was a clear foul by Benzema on the goalkeeper,” Pochettino told a news conference. “After an injustice like that the team had a mental breakdown. It’s a shame.”

Manchester City ease into QF despite Sporting draw

Meanwhile, Manchester City sailed through to the Champions League quarter-finals after they played out a 0-0 draw against Sporting in their last-16 second leg on Wednesday, progressing 5-0 on aggregate.

City had already done the hard work in their thrashing of the Portuguese side in the first leg three weeks ago in Lisbon, and could take it easy against an inferior Sporting at the Etihad Stadium.

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Coach Pep Guardiola could afford to make several changes to his starting team, with one of those players coming in — Raheem Sterling — going closest to scoring in the first half after his close-range effort was saved.

Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, making his first Champions League start of the season, did have the ball in the net early in the second half, but his clever finish was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

Paulinho almost earned Sporting victory late on, but it was not to be as City held on to ensure they have now reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in each of the last five seasons, the only English side to do so over this period.

The achievement was not lost on Guardiola as he looks to win the only major trophy that has eluded him during his time at City.

“The last decade, step by step, the club grew and for many years we were there in the Champions League and qualifying for the last 16,” he told BT Sport.

“Now again we’re in the quarter-final and among the best eight teams in Europe. When I qualify for the quarter-finals, I enjoy it, when I qualify for the last 16, too. I know how difficult it is.”

Sporting coach Ruben Amorim was certainly happy to see the back of City.

“We were very unlucky in the draw,” he told Eleven Sports. “Last year we were eliminated by LASK Linz and this year by Manchester City, one of the best teams in the world.

“It’s always positive not to lose away to a powerful opponent like this.”

Reuters/ABC

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