ALMOST exactly five years to the day since Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) was hit for six and humiliated in Barcelona, it was more pain in Spain for the French champions, as they slipped out of the Champions League in all too familiar fashion.
Approaching the hour mark of the return leg against Barcelona’s rival Real Madrid in the last-16 on Wednesday, PSG looked primed to reach the quarterfinals, leading 1-0 on the night and 2-0 on aggregate.
Somehow, in a manner only PSG seems able to contrive to do, the star-studded visitors imploded — a capitulation of their own making — losing 3-1 on the night to crash out.
PSG has now been eliminated from four of their nine Champions League knockout ties when winning from the first leg, three of those coming in the previous six seasons.
The 6-1 defeat to Barça in the Camp Nou on March 8, 2017 was their nadir.
A stunning 4-0 win in Paris in the first leg had led many to tip PSG as eventual champions in 2016-17, only for one of the most famous comebacks in sporting history, completed by Sergi Roberto in the 95th minute, to end their European dreams.
A Marcus Rashford winner in the Parc des Princes two years later brought memories of the Nou Camp “remontada” flooding back as PSG, who had put Manchester United to the sword in the first leg at Old Trafford, fell at the last-16 hurdle following a limp second-leg showing again.
Three weeks ago, a brilliant Kylian Mbappé winner in Paris gave PSG the advantage coming into Wednesday’s rematch in Madrid, with fans believing a first Champions League title could finally be in the offing.
With the effervescent Mbappé causing more problems in the Bernabeu — scoring one stunning goal that was ruled out before making one count to give PSG the lead — a last-eight spot was theirs to lose.
Needing to regroup, PSG then saved their most catastrophic mistake until last as, from their own kickoff after Benzema’s second, they gave the ball away and let Real slice through them to earn a dramatic 3-1 win on the night.
The winning goal came an astonishing 10 and a half seconds after the host’s previous strike.
Benzema became the oldest player to score a Champions League hat trick but the night will be remembered more for what PSG did to themselves, again, than any of the Frenchman’s goalscoring exploits. — Reuters