Real Madrid Blow 2-Goal Lead in Draw vs. PSG, Qualify for UCL Round-of-16

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 26: Robert Lewandowski of FC Bayern Munich battles for possession with Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain at Bernabeu on November 26, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Real Madrid qualified for the last 16 of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League, despite being held to a 2-2 draw by Paris Saint-Germain in Group A on Tuesday night.

Karim Benzema bagged a brace to put the hosts two in front, before Kylian Mbappe and substitute Pablo Sarabia drew PSG level. Real had already escaped going down to 10 men in the first half when a red card shown to Thibaut Courtois after the goalkeeper brought down Mauro Icardi in the box was rescinded by VAR.

A tough night for the home side was compounded by Eden Hazard leaving the pitch in the second half after a tackle from Thomas Meunier. Meanwhile, Les Parisiens were able to give Neymar some minutes on his return to Champions League action.

The stalemate at the Santiago Bernabeu guaranteed PSG will finish top of the group, but Real will also join them in the knockout phase thanks to Club Brugge drawing 1-1 with Galatasaray earlier in the day.

There was little tangible at stake thanks to events in Istanbul, but both sides had the incentive of making a statement of sorts against a heavyweight of the competition.

Real seemed best-equipped to make such a statement based on their quick, neat passing and fluid movement early on. Those things led to a goal on 17 minutes when a slick move, with Federico Valverde heavily involved, ended with Benzema applying the finishing touch.

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The in-form Frenchman had subjected PSG to a rare feeling in this season's tournament:

By contrast, goals have been coming easily to Benzema at this level:

The hosts continued to pour it on against the overwhelmed visitors, with Casemiro going close from distance after Marcelo had stung the palms of Keylor Navas in the PSG goal.

Les Parisiens were on the back foot but seemed to have a route back into the game when Icardi went down in the box amid a sliding challenge from Courtois.

The Belgian was red-carded before VAR intervened to check the incident. Eventually, no penalty was given, while play was actually brought back for a Real free-kick, awarded because of a slight push from Idrissa Gueye on Marcelo.

Plenty were left confused by the turn of events:

Technology helped ensure Los Blancos maintained their slender lead at the break. The results of the review also likely what prompted PSG boss Thomas Tuchel to bring Neymar off the bench and into the fray for the second half.

Fresh from serving a suspension and dealing with injuries, it had been a while since the world's most-expensive player made an appearance in this tournament:

Real were forced into a quick response when Hazard limped, with Zinedine Zidane calling on Gareth Bale, despite the Welshman being booed during Los Merengues' 3-1 win over Real Sociedad in La Liga on Saturday:

There was still a football match being played amid all of the controversy and star turns. Real tightened their grip on those proceedings when Benzema headed in his second from a pinpoint Marcelo cross.

It should have been game over, but Meunier's deflected cross fell to Mbappe after a mixup between Courtois and Raphael Varane. PSG's talisman of the future had been quiet, but he made no mistake from close range.

Real were rattled, and it was no surprise when PSG levelled things less than two minutes after Mbappe had struck. It was left to Sarabia, who had replaced Icardi for the final quarter of an hour, to slam in an emphatic equaliser.

Ironically, it was Bale who nearly rescued Real deep into stoppage time when he clipped the post with a thunderous free kick.

Ultimately though, the defensive frailties of both teams had been ruthlessly exposed. Neither is likely to lift the trophy being so vulnerable at the back, while Real's reliance on Benzema for goals also looks like being costly for Zidane's men.

   

What's Next?

Real are away to Alaves in La Liga on Saturday, while PSG travel to Monaco for a tough test in Ligue 1 the following day. Both teams return to Champions League action for the final matchday of the group stage on Dec. 11 when Madrid travel to Club Brugge and PSG host Galatasaray.

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