Real Madrid may have lost 4-3 to Manchester City in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League semi-finals, but their hopes of making the competition a record 14th time have been kept alive by the exploits of Karim Benzema.
The 34-year-old French forward scored twice in a classic at the Etihad Stadium. He scored his first goal in the 33rd minute after tying a Ferland Mendy cross into the net. His second, a brilliant “Panenka” penalty, ensured a second leg in the stands in Spain next Wednesday.
“Cold, this guy”
Real captain Benzema showed “nerves of steel” with eight minutes remaining and “dinked” his free-kick over City keeper Ederson to make it 4-3 on the night, he said BBC Sport. The “nonchalance summed up a sensational match” between two European heavyweights.
Speaking of BT sport, ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand praised the striker’s confidence for the winning penalty. He was “ice cold, this guy,” Ferdinand said of the four-time Champions League winner. “Even if it had been at the last minute, he would still have executed it.”
With context, the “bold” Panenka is “even more stunning” considering he has missed three of his last four penalties, including two in the same game against Osasuna last week, Daniel Davis said in the Daily Mail.
Benzema said it was “mental confidence, that’s all” on his Panenka. “I have a lot of confidence, so I do it and it turns out well.” He also revealed he had changed his technique after being studied by opposing goalkeepers. Even he admitted his punishment was “cold blood”.
One of the greatest strikers in the world
Death, taxes, Benzema scores in the Champions League. “Some things are just certainties in life,” said Anish Dogra on talkSPORT. After scoring twice in Manchester, he has now scored 14 goals in the competition this season, overtaking Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
Benzema scored five times in the group stage but really grabbed the headlines in the knockout stages. In the round of 16, he scored a hat-trick in the second leg as Real came back to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 on aggregate. Then, in the quarter-finals against Chelsea, he scored another first-leg hat-trick at Stamford Bridge and a 96th-minute extra-time header at the Bernabéu sends Real to the semifinals 5-4 overall.
With Benzema in attack, Real will “always have hope,” said Phil McNulty BBC. The Frenchman deserves his place in the “upper league of world football’s great forwards”.
Favorite to win the Ballon d’Or?
After scoring 66 goals in 148 games for Lyon, Benzema left the French club for Madrid in 2009. He has now made 600 appearances for the Spanish giants and has scored 320 goals. This makes him the third-best goalscorer of all time behind his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo (450) and Raúl (323). He has also won an impressive 20 trophies during his time at the Bernabéu: four Champions Leagues, four Club World Cups, three Uefa Super Cups, three La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys and four Spanish Super Cups.
With his groundbreaking appearance at Etihad, Benzema has tied Paco Gento for the number of games in a Real Madrid shirt. brand reported. He was “undoubtedly” the “most crucial player” in the Champions League this season, but with 41 goals in 41 games for Real across all competitions, he is also “the favorite to win the Ballon d’Or”.
Ahead of the first leg, Man City midfielder İlkay Gündoğan said Benzema has “everything it takes” to win the Ballon d’Or. And his chances of winning the award in 2022 may have been improved by a “change in criteria, meaning players are now judged over the course of a typical club season rather than the calendar year,” said James Walker-Roberts Eurosport.
Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti regularly praised the skipper for his leadership skills and for setting an example for the rest of the squad. “He has so much personality,” Ancelotti said after Real’s win at Chelsea earlier this month. “He knows he’s a very important player here. Karim gets better every day like a fine wine.”
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/sport/football/956556/karim-benzema-real-madrid-panenka-hat-tricks-ballon-dor Karim Benzema profile: Panenkas, hat-tricks and a Ballon d’Or?