Karim Benzema held his nerve when Real Madrid needed him most against Manchester City.
When the Premier League giants led 5-3 on aggregate going into the final minutes at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night, nobody could have anticipated the staggering comeback that was about to take place.
That’s because Los Blancos produced one of the greatest turnarounds in Champions League history when they scored three goals in a matter of minutes to book themselves a place in the final.
Rodrygo to the rescue
And it all started with Rodrygo, who stepped up to the plate with a goal either side of the 90-minute mark to set up an additional half-hour in which the Spanish champions secured the win.
First, the 21-year-old did brilliantly well to convert Benzema’s cross from close range and second, he equalised with an inch-perfect header past Ederson from Dani Carvajal’s delivery.
In fact, Rodrygo even had a chance to send Real to Paris in regulation time with what would have been an extraordinary hat-trick, but his one-on-one effort was smothered by the City goalkeeper.
Benzema and the deciding penalty
Nevertheless, it would appear as though the Brazilian forward still had a chance to take home the match ball when Real were awarded a penalty for Ruben Dias’ challenge on Benzema.
Now, as we all know, it was Benzema who actually stepped up to take the spot-kick – finding the bottom corner with a slotted effort – but new information suggests that things could have gone very differently.
Besides, while Benzema might have been on the high of scoring a Panenka in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium, it’s no secret that his penalties haven’t necessarily been bang on the money in recent weeks.
As lethal as Benzema has been in front of goal this season, he missed no less than three spot-kicks in the month of April with Sergio Herrera saving two in the same game for Osasuna.
Benzema gives Rodrygo the chance
And perhaps that was on the Frenchman’s mind when he reportedly asked if Rodrygo actually wanted to take the penalty that propelled Real into a Champions League final against Liverpool instead.
Well, that or wanting to give Rodrygo the opportunity to score the craziest of hat-tricks.
Either way, the fascinating exchange has been highlighted on Spanish television by El Golazo De Gol with Benzema reportedly asking: “¿Quieres?”, which roughly translates to: “You want?”
All in all, it made up just one part of a fascinating reel of footage that showed the intimate and tense moments that transpired between Real winning the penalty and Benzema finding the back of the net.
From said exchange with Rodrgyo to the Real star getting in the zone before one of the biggest moments of his career, it really does make for extraordinary viewing, so be sure to check it out below:
What we saw live yesterday confirmed by GOL's cameras today, where we see Benzema asking Rodrygo if he wanted to take the penalty so that he could complete his hattrick. Rodrygo told him to take it.— Gina 🥇 (@Serginaoo) May 5, 2022
What a captain @Benzema 💯pic.twitter.com/Ci5UjO9GRI
La petite info bonbon : hier, Karim Benzema a proposé à Rodrygo de tirer le penalty pour tenter le triplé 🍬🥰 pic.twitter.com/PBIEuBjS78— Emile Gillet (@Emile_Gillet) May 5, 2022
That’s history right there, folks.
A season-defining moment
While tens of thousands of fans might have been in the stadium and millions of people may have been watching around the world, it’s all irrelevant when it comes to one-on-one moments like that.
It’s similar to big boxing matches: no matter how much you hype them up and no matter how many tickets you sell, it ultimately ends up with just two people in the ring beating the living daylights out of each other.
And you really got that very same feeling when Benzema wound up to take a single shot upon which Real’s Champions League hopes rested. No nonsense, no politics; just striker vs goalkeeper.
Real Madrid 3-1 Man City Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
We’ll just never know how that battle would have played out had it been Rodrygo and not Benzema that lined up from 12 yards…