Real Madrid vs. PSG: Where does this turnaround/collapse rank among greatest in Champions League history?

It was another magical night in the greatest club competition in the world — the UEFA Champions League. Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain were cruising early in the second half in their round of 16 second leg, up 2-0 on aggregate at Real Madrid, and looking like a lock to advance to the quarterfinals. There was no way PSG would give up two goals and allow extra time, right? 

PSG didn’t allow two. They allowed three! A magnificent hat trick from Karim Benzema, one that earned him a perfect rating of 10 in our player ratings, secured a shocking comeback via a 3-1 win over PSG. It was an absolutely stunning comeback considering Carlo Ancelotti’s side was not all that threatening before the goals arrived, and it did absolutely nothing in the first leg as it almost seemed to purposely retreat in effort to decide the tie at the Bernabeu. 

But Benzema became the oldest player to secure a Champions League hat trick as he scored all three in less than 20 minutes to boot a team whose season is now a failure no matter what happens moving forward. PSG are measured simply by European success that continues to elude them.

Looking back through the years of this historic competition, where does Wednesday’s this jaw-dropping second-half comeback (or collapse, depending on your rooting interest) rank? Here’s my top five:

5. Deportivo 4, AC Milan  0 (2003-04 quarters)

An absolutely shocking turn of events. AC Milan crushed Deportivo La Coruna 4-1 in the first leg, and there was no way a team featuring the likes of Dida, Cafu, Paolo Maldini, Andriy Shevchenko and arguably the world’s top young talent Kaka, were going to blow this. Now, Deportivo were no pushovers, featuring top talents like Juan Carlos Valeron and Alberto Luque, but Milan were the defending champs and got absolutely obliterated, losing the second leg 4-0 and crashing out 5-4 on aggregate. This was one of those results, during my childhood, that taught me the magic of this sport.

4. Real Madrid 3, PSG 1 (2021-22 round of 16)

I’ll put Wednesday’s comeback here as the fourth-best all time. Sure, it wasn’t via a crazy amount of goals, and not having the away goals rule anymore added to the intrigue and belief that Real were still in it. But even if there were away goals, Real still would have advanced. The Gianluigi Donnarumma mistake off the Benzema pressure turned the tide, and Real never looked back. With the added storylines of Lionel Messi facing his old rivals and Kylian Mbappe taking on what many believe will be his next team, Real did was seemed unthinkable with 30 minutes to go. Benzema is already a Real Madrid legend, but this was next level stuff from the Frenchman. 

3. Liverpool 4, Barcelona 3 (2018-19 semis)

The beginning of the end for Lionel Messi at Barcelona. This collapse was a result Barca that still haven’t recovered from. A 3-0 win in the first leg at Camp Nou seemed like more than enough to advance after 90 minutes at Anfield. In all honesty, a 3-0 win for the Reds would have been a shock, so 4-0? Out of this world. The Trent Alexander-Arnold quick corner to Divock Origi is a play ingrained in our dreams for eternity, and it’s the stuff of nightmares for Blaugrana supporters. 

2. Barcelona 6, PSG 1 (2016-17 round of 16)

This is the all-time epic collapse for PSG. They defeated Barca 4-0 in the first leg but lost the second leg 6-1 at the Camp Nou with Sergi Roberto’s late winner. PSG conceded four times in the second half and three times after the 88th minute. Known as La Remontada (The Comeback) for Barca supporters, they cleared a four-goal deficit and won by five, which left Unai Emery stunned on the PSG sideline. This marked the first time ever a team fought back and won after being down four goals in two-legged tie. 

1. Liverpool 3, AC Milan 3 — Reds win in PKs (2004-05 final)

There is no topping this. The final in Istanbul is one of the most iconic soccer matches in history, one that I remember vividly. Props to my high school soccer coach for letting us watch it in his classroom before practice. Not all heroes wear capes. 

But this game was just bonkers, with Milan taking the lead a minute in through Maldini. It was 3-0 by the half with an Hernan Crespo double, the last goal coming in the 44th minute to surely end any hope of a comeback. But it was Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer an Xabi Alonso off his own missed penalty kick, tapping in the rebound, drawing level with three goals in seven minutes. The game went to extra time, then came penalties, and the rest is history. Jerzy Dudek was the hero in the shootout, but he also had a memorable double save on Andriy Shevchenko late in extra time to force the spot kicks.

Istanbul, 2005 — the greatest comeback on the biggest of stages that the sport has seen. 

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