MADRID, Spain, March 10 – Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino has said the decision not to foul Karim Benzema for Real Madrid’s first goal “changed everything” in the implosion of his team’s Champions League on Wednesday.
The French giants were sailing 2-0 on aggregate when Benzema scored the opening goal of his hat-trick just after the hour mark at the Santiago Bernabeu, losing 3-1 on the night and 3-2 in the final -16 tie.
But Pochettino was angered that PSG weren’t awarded a free kick for Benzema’s challenge on Gianluigi Donnarumma after the visiting keeper lingered on the ball.
“Explaining what happened is easy. There was a foul on Donnarumma on the first goal, and that changed everything,” Pochettino told Canal+.
“It’s hard not to talk about this big refereeing mistake, which I don’t understand and won’t forgive.
“I don’t understand why the referee didn’t call VAR. From then on, everything changed in the stadium. Our players were pissed off, although we have to admit that we made mistakes.
France striker Benzema made it clear he didn’t think it was a foul when Donnarumma kicked poorly under pressure.
“Not at all (was it a foul),” he told RMC Sport. “I pressed him, he waited and then he just lost the ball.”
PSG, still in search of a first Champions League trophy, capitulated in the closing stages, with Benzema’s winning goal less than 11 seconds from kick-off after his second.
Pochettino’s position will now come under scrutiny, despite his side sitting 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
“The rest of the season is going to be very difficult,” admitted the Argentine, who lost the 2019 final to Liverpool while in charge of Tottenham.
“The Champions League has been PSG’s goal for years, everyone knows that. We know the fans are going to be pissed off, we know that.
PSG have been widely tipped to finally end their Champions League wait after bringing in a host of new players last year, including Lionel Messi, Achraf Hakimi, Donnarumma and Sergio Ramos.
“We were well placed to advance in the Champions League, and with this team we thought we could win it,” said sporting director Leonardo.
“We have to accept our mistakes, our problems, our inability to deal with difficult times.”