A moment of 'sheer arrogance': How 'stone cold' Benzema kept Madrid's hopes alive
Karim Benzema kept his cool in the most arrogant and audacious way possible during Real Madrid’s 4-3 defeat to Manchester City, according to former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer.
The Real Madrid forward’s brace of goals on Tuesday night took him to 14 in Europe this season, just three short of the record 17 scored by Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2013-14.
The 34-year-old scored four times across the two-legged quarter-final against Chelsea before bagging Madrid’s first at the Etihad after 33 minutes, turning in a Ferland Mendy cross to hit back against City’s two early goals.
Phil Foden restored the two-goal advantage before Vinicius Junior pegged them back again, but Bernardo Silva’s sensational strike from the edge of the box seemed to have put the tie out of sight at 4-2.
However, a handball by Rodri gave Madrid the chance to once again reduce the deficit from the penalty spot, and Benzema stepped up to do the honours, cheekily chipping the ball over a diving Ederson.
Some Madrid fans may have been surprised to see Benzema retain the spot-kick duties given his recent form from 12 yards: last week against Osasuna, he saw two penalties saved in the space of 17 minutes and also missed one against Celta Vigo earlier this month.
All three misses had been driven low to the keeper’s right-hand side, but Benzema switched up his preferred penalty against City, much to the surprise of onlookers including Shearer, who scored 56 out of the 62 penalties he took in the Premier League during his illustrious career.
“After missing three penalties this month, all I can do is chuckle and think ‘I cannot believe Karim Benzema has just done that’,” Shearer told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“The sheer arrogance of it but also the belief and the ability to do that. He seems to be getting better and better. The sheer audacity! It was incredible.”
Benzema himself has only missed seven penalties outside of shootouts in his career, scoring the other 29, but four of those failures have come since the turn of the year. Even so, the France international laughed off the suggestion his poor recent record might have forced him to reconsider his responsibilities.
“If you don’t take penalties, you’ll never miss them,” he said afterwards.
“It’s confidence, nothing more. It’s all mental.”
Analysis: ‘Stone cold’ Benzema keeps Madrid in tiePep happy despite City failing to press home advantage
By Sam Cunningham, i‘s chief football correspondent at the Etihad Stadium
The revenge movie has become popular in modern times, the story depicting a main protagonist who relentlessly refuses to give up, refuses to be killed, refuses to stop until they have had their revenge.
And it’s as though this group of Real Madrid players have channelled that energy into the Champions League this season. They trail Manchester City by a goal after a simply extraordinary game of football and cannot be written off.
They are John Wick avenging his dead puppy, they are The Equalizer seeking revenge for the mistreated. They are as stone cold as Karim Benzema’s penalty to leave Real Madrid bruised and battered but somehow only one goal behind in this semi-final.
Read Sam’s report in full here
Guardiola’s delight with Manchester City’s swashbuckling win against Real Madrid outweighed any frustration about their inability to put the Champions League semi-final to bed in a jaw-dropping first leg.
The leaders of the Premier League and LaLiga met under the Etihad Stadium lights on Tuesday evening, when onlookers were treated to an astonishing encounter that leaves the tie on a knife edge.
City had roared out the blocks and celebrated early goals by Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus, only for Karim Benzema to expertly fire home after the dominant hosts failed to add to their advantage.
Phil Foden scored early in the second half but Vinicius Junior replied almost immediately, with Bernardo Silva striking home a thunderous effort as City stepped up a gear.
But Madrid again reduced the deficit when Benzema scored an outrageous dinked penalty to leave the score at 4-3, adding spice and intrigue to next Wednesday’s second leg at the Bernabeu.
“It was a good game of football – both teams with an incredible amount of quality players on the pitch with incredible personality to play,” City boss Guardiola said.
“The result is what it is. We won, we are going to rest, then play Leeds and travel to Spain next week. To win this competition, from my small experience, you have to overcome situations like football gives in front of you.
“The result could be better, but Madrid is always Madrid. It doesn’t matter if 1-0 up or two or three, you have to perform really well two games. We performed really well the first one. We have to do it the second one. It is a good test to show our personality as a team and we are going to travel there to win the game.”
Asked if he was upset about City’s numerous missed chances, Guardiola said: “We miss them but we create them. We were there all the time. We were there. Listen, not one complaint about the result, the performance, anything.
“I am so proud, I’m so incredibly happy of the way we performed in front of the world against a team that have an experience with that. We did everything to win and with courage, with the ball, without the ball.”