Karim Benzema showed he only has ice in his veins after he scored a ridiculous Panenka penalty – his 41st goal of the season on his 600th club appearance for Real Madrid – to rescue his side in their Champions League semi-final against Manchester City.
Benzema’s two strikes ensured that City only take a one-goal advantage to the Bernabeu for next week’s hotly-anticipated second leg.
He once again stepped up when it matters, with his first goal – a brilliant volley in the first half – denting City’s momentum before his cheeky chipped penalty leaving pundits and fans alike stunned.
Karim Benzema scored twice on his 600th appearance for Real Madrid against Man City
With context, the audacious panenka is even more breathtaking when you consider the Frenchman missed his last two penalties in Real’s 3-1 win over Osasuna last week.
After the seven-goal thriller at the Etihad, Benzema revealed he had to change his penalty technique due to be heavily studied by opposition goalkeepers.
He said: ‘All the goalkeepers have studied my penalties and I had to change. The penalty by me was cold blooded.’
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti added he was surprised by the Panenka but praised him for his strong mentality with the spot-kick coming while the Spanish side were trailing 4-2.
Ancelotti said: ‘I think he changed because the last two penalties were not good. He changed and tried in training. I did not know how he would shoot. He choose this and it goes really well. Strong personality and character. It is not easy in the semi-final of the Champions League to do a penalty like this.’
The red-hot frontman also chipped in a cheeky penalty, keeping his side alive in the showdown
The Frenchman pulled off the audacious penalty late on, with City running out 4-3 winners
The Panenka also left pundits Steve McManaman and Rio Ferdinand completely stunned by the coolness to pull off such a piece of skill with all the pressure riding on it.
‘He missed two in his last game against Osasuna, the goalkeeper saved them,’ McManaman said. ‘He probably thought Ederson studied where he puts the ball. He takes a lot of penalties. He’s missed four already this season. Instead of going left or right, he’s probably thinking “you know what, now is the time”.
‘They’re not four nil up, they were four two down when he’s doing that. If he misses that, it’s game over. Regardless of his record this year, he would be criticised to the hilt for taking the penalty if he’s missed.’
Ferdinand added: ‘If it’s the last minute (he thought of doing a Panenka), it doesn’t matter. He’s executed it. Look at him.’
Benzema left Ederson stranded in goal, capping off a brilliant solo performance in Europe
While Madrid ended up losing on the night 4-3, Los Blancos will be relieved, considering it could’ve been a lot worse if City took their chances.
Madrid were blown away in the first half, having conceded quickfire goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus.
Indeed, De Bruyne’s opener came with just 94 seconds on the clock, leaving the visitors reeling before Jesus then capitalised on slack defending to slot home.
City continued to carve out a host of openings in search of a potentially tie-killing third goal, but instead, against the run of play, it was Los Blancos who struck next.
To little surprise, it was Benzema who provided the finishing touch. The veteran met Ferland Mendy’s cross to the far post, and tucked past Ederson and into the corner.
His two strikes took him to 14 goals in the competition this season, and also saw him reach a milestone achievement to add to his blistering campaign.
Benzema was able to smuggle the ball into the net to halve the deficit in the Etihad thriller
Notably, the red-hot Benzema, 34, became the first player to hit the 40-goal mark for the Spanish heavyweights since Cristiano Ronaldo.
At half-time, BT Sport’s pundits were effusive in their praise for his effort, and agreed that he had halved the deficit from out of nothing.
‘That’s not even a chance for most players,’ Ferdinand said. ‘It’s a hopeful ball in there. This guy, man, at the moment, there’s no one near him.’
Meanwhile, McManaman said: ‘Madrid slowly started to get into the game. They made a couple of opportunities. But this came out of nothing, really.
Rio Ferdinand hailed Benzema for his heroics and also insisted that there is ‘no one near him’
‘You can’t necessarily pick holes in the Manchester City defence. Yes, Mahrez could have cleared it when he went into the tackle.
‘Once the ball gets fizzed into the box, you think that’s okay. They’re set up alright.
‘It’s just they’ve got the best centre forward around at the moment. He finishes it really well. It doesn’t have to be powerful, it just has to be accurate.’