Football News

“This was as close to perfect as we’ll see” – Player ratings as brilliant Benzema leads Real Madrid’s magnificent Champions League comeback over PSG

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:36, 9 March 2022 | Updated: 19:01, 24 November 2022

In a miraculous night of football, Real Madrid came from 0-2 down on aggregate to win 3-2 in the Champions League.

Kylian Mbappé thought he was the match-winner again only for his compatriot Karim Benzema to steal the show with a stupendous hat-trick and guide Los Blancos into the quarter-finals yet again.

Here’s how the players rated at Santiago Bernabeu:


READ MORE: Champions League outright odds


Real Madrid

Thibaut Courtois – 4 – Made some big stops early on, but was hedging into the middle of his goal and leaving a huge gap at the near-post which Mbappé began exploiting, including the goal.

Dani Carvajal – 4 – Should have picked up an early red card for elbowing Mbappé and a yellow for studding Verratti. Escaped censure oth times, then played super high and pulled the whole Madrid defence out of shape, leading to Mbappé’s goal. Put in some nice crosses so he avoids a 3, but this wasn’t good from Carvajal.

Eder Militao – 7 – Looked a bit ropey when asked to defend any of PSG’s forwards 1-v-1. To be fair it’s a big task, and he did get better in the second-half, but there’s definitely a weakness there.

David Alaba – 7 – He defended the PSG goal about as well as anyone could, and was solid enough besides that.

Nacho – 7 – A hardworking stalwart was hard-working and stalwart. Classic Nacho.

Toni Kroos – 5 – Some wonderful passes but PSG ran through him like a hot knife through butter. Not a coincidence Madrid got infinitely better once he went off.

Federico Valverde – 7 – An absolute workhorse in the middle. For most of the game he was chasing shadows but he never stopped chasing and when Madrid got things going in their favour, suddenly he started smashing the shadows.

Luka Modric – 8 – 70 minutes of looking old and busted followed up by 20 minutes of looking like the best midfielder on the planet. Madrid’s second goal saw an excellent run and not one but two superhuman passes to cut PSG. The Croatian is a miracle.

Marco Asensio – 5 – Was shooting on sight. Really poor.

Vinicius Junior – 8 – Looked exceptionally dangerous with his dancing feet even though PSG double-teamed him quite well as they did in the first-leg. However he stayed calm when PSG lost their heads and set-up the equaliser, and thereafter his pace and runs completely scared the life out of PSG and he could have scored a fourth.

Karim Benzema – 9 – Could arguably have had a hat-trick by half-time, missing two great headed chances in particular. Never let his head drop, however, and continued to carry the fight. Pulled an equaliser out of thin air by pressing Donnarumma into a mistake and then tapping home Vinicius’ cross, then buried two spectacular strikes to actually score a second-half hat-trick.

This was as close to a perfect performance as we’ve seen in the Champions League knockout rounds, because not only did Benzema score the crucial match-winning hat-trick against an elite opponent (as others have before) but he was involved in every single thing his team did. He was a reference, a presence in the box, a link-man and then a goal poacher extraordinaire. All while wearing the captain’s armband.

There may never be a perfect 10/10 display in a football match, but this was as close as football has seen in over a decade.

And the icing on the cake? There was no arrogance, no aggression, no haughtiness in his celebrations. Just pure unconfined joy. A smile as wide as the Santiago Bernabeu itself as he became the oldest player to score a Champions League hat-trick and passed Alfredo di Stefano to become Real Madrid’s third highest goalscorer of all-time AND won his team the game.

Arise, King Karim, the world of football belongs to you tonight.


Real Madrid Substitutes:

Eduardo Camavinga (for Asensio 58′) – 8 – Not only did he add a bit of thrust to Madrid’s lifeless midfield but he also freed Luka Modric up to make his forward runs.

Rodrygo (for Kroos 58′) – 7 – Added so much more drive and bite to the Madrid midfield.

Lucas Vazquez (for Carvajal 67′) – 6 – Wasn’t Carvajal, which doesn’t sound like much but was enough.


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PSG

Gianluigi Donnarumma – 3 – Was having a reasonable night until he panicked like a jittery coffee addict on hour 37 of a detox. Gave Real Madrid life in a game where they looked dead and buried.

Achraf Hakimi – 6 – Mostly solid. Handled Vinicius really well until his centre-backs imploded, then he played Benzema onside for the Frenchman’s second goal.

Marquinhos – 3 – Not as bad as his partner but he plays with the confidence of a much better defender and while that serves him well in terms of defending and scoring goals some of his passing choices are awful. Gave it away a bunch, lunged in and deflected Benzema’s second goal into the net and then set the Frenchman up for the third with an outside of the foot ball across his own box.

Okay, maybe he was as bad as his partner.

Presnel Kimpembe – 3 – Looked nervous in the face of Madrid’s press from the very first minute. You never felt like he would be able to stop anyone when they actually ran at him. Nowhere to be seen on Madrid’s equaliser, strolled out and didn’t confront Modric for Madrid’s second (in fact he was slow to confront Modric twice in the move, once on the half-way line and then again outside the box), allowing the Croatian to make a free pass into the box into the position he should have been occupying. Then finally he had no idea where Benzema was on the third and final goal as well. A proper disasterclass from the Frenchman.

Nuno Mendes – 4 – Had a few bright runs but overall he didn’t do enough in the final third and looked shaky when Madrid pressed him.

Danilo – 7 – Defended really well for the most part until the floor fell out from underneath him.

Leadro Paredes – 8 – Exceptional first hour. Constantly available to link the play and keep PSG’s possession ticking over. PSG fell to pieces after he went off.

Marco Verratti – 7 – Calm when he had to be, aggressive when he had to be. Absolutely ran the show for 70 minutes until Paredes went off and suddenly he was left alone in midfield and getting monstered by Luka Modric.

Leo Messi – 7 – Got stuck in as the midfield enforcer early on, and started some moves with brilliant dribbling and nice vision as well. Really controlled the tempo of game along with Verratti for 70 minutes in a mature display. But when the tide turned against PSG he couldn’t lift his team and a free-kick hitting the top of the net was as close as he came to impacting the game.

Neymar – 7 – Produced a magnificent pass to set-up Mbappé’s opener and had bright moments but was overall a frustrating and inconsistent presence.

Kylian Mbappé – 8 – Very sharp from the off, testing Courtois twice early. Scored three stunning goals but two were ruled out for offside. Looked for all the world like he was going to be the match-winner after his two goals across the tie, but his defenders let him down badly.

To make matters worse for PSG, the way in which Real Madrid roared their way back into this tie with his idol Karim Benzema leading the way in front of a packed Santiago Bernabeu was basically the best sales pitch for him to join Real Madrid that one could imagine.

Florentino Perez is going to be very happy man tonight.

Tic tac… tic tac… tic tac…

Substitutes:

Idrissa Gueye (for Paredes 71′) – 4 – It’s not exactly his fault, but his introduction led to PSG’s collapse.

Angel Di Maria (for Danilo 80′) – 5 – Couldn’t change the momentum of the match.

Julian Draxler (for Hakimi 88′) – 5 – A baffling change. Added nothing.

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