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Benzema scores hat trick, Madrid rallies to oust PSG from CL

MADRID (AP) — Karim Benzema scored a hat trick in less than 20 minutes in the second half Wednesday as Real Madrid came from behind to defeat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 and advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Kylian Mbappé had opened the scoring in the first half to increase PSG’s aggregate lead after the France striker also netted in stoppage time to secure a 1-0 first-leg win in Paris.

Benzema evened the match at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the 61st after a blunder by PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, then scored again in the 76th and 78th minutes to give the 13-time European champions a 3-2 aggregate win. Madrid reached the last eight for the second straight season after consecutive eliminations in the round of 16, while PSG failed to live up to the massive expectations after adding Lionel Messi to its star-studded team this season.

PSG, seeking its first Champions League title, had advanced past the round of 16 the last two seasons, losing the final to Bayern Munich in 2020 and being eliminated by Manchester City in the semifinals in 2021.

Madrid eliminated PSG at this stage in 2018 en route to its third straight title in the competition.

In the other last-16 match on Wednesday, Manchester City advanced past Sporting Lisbon 5-0 on aggregate after a scoreless draw in England.

PSG appeared in control after Mbappé, who had been doubtful to play after picking up a knock in training on Monday, scored in the 39th after collecting a long pass by Neymar and making a run into the area before firing a low shot past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

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It was the 27th Champions League goal for the 23-year-old France forward with PSG, leaving him three shy of Edinson Cavani’s club record in the competition. He has scored 14 goals in his last 14 Champions League appearances.

Mbappé had already had a few chances before opening the scoring, including a goal disallowed for offside in the build-up. He also had one goal called back for the same reason in the second half.

Neymar and Lionel Messi also threatened for PSG after Madrid looked in control early.

Vinícius Júnior and Benzema threatened the most for Madrid, and the French striker scored the equalizer off a pass from Vinícius after Donnarumma gave the ball away while being pressured by Benzema inside the area.

Benzema added the second after a pass from Luka Modric and a couple of minutes later sealed the team’s spot in the quarterfinals with a one-time finish after another run by Vinícius down the left flank.

Madrid was without Ferland Mendy and Casemiro because of yellow-card suspensions, but Toni Kroos started after being doubtful because of muscle injury. Federico Valverde replaced Casemiro, while Nacho Fernández started at left back instead of veteran Marcelo.

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Source: AP News

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