My 3 Thoughts on Real Madrid-PSG
Benzema's Second-Half Hat Trick Turns Everything in the Champions League Tie on Its Head and Sends PSG Home in Misery
• Karim Benzema (34) and Luka Modric (36) are still relevant at the highest levels. We can talk about PSG in a moment, but let’s hear it for the two Real Madrid guys in their mid-30s who took over this epic heavyweight battle midway through the second half and turned everything on its head. Benzema is still a predator in front of goal, and he took advantage of some brutal mistakes by Gigi Donnarumma, Marquinhos and (to a lesser extent) Achraf Hakimi playing him onside to register a stunning 17-minute hat trick and overturn a two-goal deficit created by PSG’s Kylian Mbappé. Benzema was absolutely ruthless, and Modric showed on the second goal that he could fire a pass to spring Vini Jr. on the counterattack and then continue pursuing the play after it appeared PSG had it covered, only to find Benzema for the goal. Every time I think clubs’ histories shouldn’t impact what happens in today’s game, something like this happens to remind you that they’re Real Madrid and the other guys are PSG. What a comeback.
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• The PSG mistakes were unforgivable. Does Real Madrid prevail if Donnarumma doesn’t go lax and give away the first goal? I don’t think so. (For that matter, does Keylor Navas make that same mistake? Nope.) What was Marquinhos thinking sending such a great ball (for the opposition) across the penalty box for Benzema to pounce on? Early in the second half, I mentioned to my friends watching the game that I was surprised how little resistance Real Madrid had provided in the first 135 minutes of the tie. But then PSG melted down in the worst possible moment, bringing back memories of the epic collapse a few years ago against Barcelona in the Champions League. All year long we have said that PSG is woefully unbalanced, which could come back to haunt them when it matters most. And on a day when Mbappé did his part in the attack, it was PSG’s defending that ruined them.
• Whither PSG? The Champions League has always been the holy grail for PSG, not the French league, so the remainder of the season will now be an absolute slog for a team with this much talent. Lionel Messi, anonymous for much of this game, is not making much of an impact, which has to make you wonder if this will be a one-season situation for him in Paris. Neymar, still impactful with Brazil, isn’t nearly so much with PSG. And everyone seems to be waiting for Mbappé, by far the best player on this team, to leave for Real Madrid next season. For that matter, coach Mauricio Pochettino might well be headed to Manchester United by the summer. Just as the old Real Madrid Galácticos failed to win much due to their lack of balance, PSG’s version of the Galácticos is doing the same thing. The club needs some Makélélés, and fast, if they’re going to win the trophies that matter the most.
What were your thoughts on the game? You can share them in the comments below.
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Complete collapse. You build a winner from the back, not the front. Or, as the saying goes in another sport, “offense wins games; defense wins championships”.
Luka Modric, still somehow underrated