What an asset Karim Benzema is proving Real Madrid.
The striker scored a second-half hat-trick in just 17 minutes to inspire Real Madrid to a 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain to see his side through to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals 3-2 on aggregate.
All the pre-match talk centered on PSG striker Kylian Mbappe’s likely summer move to Real Madrid, and the Frenchman’s first-half goal put PSG 1-0 up on the night and 2-0 ahead on aggregate.
However, on the hour mark, Benzema took advantage of an error from PSG keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who made a complete mess of a ball at his feet to gift Madrid a way back into the tie.
15 minutes later, Benzema leveled the aggregate score after neat work from Vinicius Jr and Luka Modric, slamming home from the right-hand side of the area.
VAR checked to see the second goal was onside, and just 12 seconds after the restart Benzema completed his hat-trick after PSG gifted Madrid the ball from the kick-off, allowing Vinicius again to feed Benzema to net the decisive goal.
Benzema had been magnificent, but PSG only had themselves to blame for a series of disastrous errors when they looked to have the tie completely under control.
Real Madrid, with Toni Kroos, who passed fit to play, started strongly, creating a couple of half-chances, but PSG were able to weather the storm and after 15 minutes they began to take control.
Neymar Jr saw a shot saved by Thibaut Courtois, and the attacking trio of Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe began to combine well, although Donnarumma did well to tip away a curling effort from Benzema at the other end.
At the other end, Messi clipped the ball over Courtois, but it drifted just wide of the post, before Mbappe’s low drive was correctly ruled out for a tight offside.
Benzema headed just wide and straight at Donnarumma before Mbappe put PSG ahead on the night after being set up by Neymar, who won a loose ball, before threading him through on goal. The French international then dummied Courtois, and will no doubt be delighted if he does join Real Madrid in the summer, which after the second half looks more likely than ever.
In the UEFA Europa League, Real Betis lost 2-1 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, who took the lead through Filip Kostic after 14 minutes, and although Nabil Fekir equalized on the half-hour, Daichi Kamada netted the decisive goal two minutes later as the German side showed their threat on the break.
The result would have been worse for the Spanish side had goalkeeper Claudio Bravo not saved a second-half penalty.