MADRID, Spain (AFP ) — Real Madrid pulled off one of the great Champions League comebacks on Wednesday as Karim Benzema scored a breathtaking hat-trick to upstage Kylian Mbappe and dump Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) out in the last 16.
Madrid were set to be the latest victims of another Mbappe masterclass at the Santiago Bernabeu after the 23-year-old ran them ragged for the best part of an hour and fired in to put PSG 1-0 up on the night, 2-0 ahead on aggregate.
But Madrid came storming back as Benzema capitalised on a mistake by PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and scored an incredible double in two minutes, the third coming within 11 seconds after PSG had kicked off.
When the full-time whistle confirmed their 3-2 aggregate victory, many of Madrid's players dropped to their knees and looked up to the sky, as much perhaps in disbelief as joy.
For PSG, it was another epic collapse to add to their growing list of Champions League disappointments, with Mauricio Pochettino's future as coach immediately cast into doubt.
Even with Mbappe, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, the Qatari-owned club's wait for a Champions League crown goes on.
Pochettino also fumed at referee Danny Makkelie for not whistling for a foul as Benzema challenged Donnarumma before Madrid's first goal.
All eyes were on Mbappe, who was the only player to be cheered by Madrid's fans before the game as they were gifted an up-close preview of the player they hope will be theirs this summer.
Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola said Manchester City's routine stroll into the Champions League quarter-finals is cause for celebration despite a subdued 0-0 draw against Sporting Lisbon, also on Wednesday.
City are on course for a fourth Premier League title in five seasons, but the Champions League has so far remained out of reach despite the billions invested by the club's Abu Dhabi owners.
Raheem Sterling wasted the best of the home side's chances as the England international failed to lift the ball over Adan from Phil Foden's sensational through ball.