Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino said the decision not to give a foul against Karim Benzema for Real Madrid’s first goal “changed everything” in his team’s Champions League implosion on Wednesday.
The French giants were cruising at 2-0 up on aggregate when Benzema scored the first goal of his hat-trick just after the hour mark at the Santiago Bernabeu, going on to lose 3-1 on the night and 3-2 in the last-16 tie.
But Pochettino was left angered that PSG were not given a free-kick for Benzema’s challenge on Gianluigi Donnarumma after the visiting goalkeeper dwelled 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 error, which I don’t understand and I won’t forgive.
“I don’t understand why the referee didn’t call for VAR. From then on everything changed in the stadium. Our players were upset, even if we must recognise that we made mistakes.”
France striker Benzema was clear that he did not think it was a foul when Donnarumma miskicked under pressure.
“Not at all (was it a foul),” he told RMC Sport. “I pressed him, he waited and then he simply lost the ball.”
PSG, still searching for a maiden Champions League trophy, capitulated in the closing stages, with Benzema’s winning goal coming within 11 seconds of kick-off after his second.
Pochettino’s position will now come under intense scrutiny, despite his team sitting 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
“The rest of the season is going to be very difficult,” the Argentinian, who lost the 2019 final to Liverpool while in charge of Tottenham, admitted.
“The Champions League has been PSG’s goal for years, everyone knows it. We know the fans are going to be pissed off, we know that.”
PSG were 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 squad, we believed we could win it,” said sporting director Leonardo.
“We must accept our mistakes, our problems, our inability to manage difficult times.”
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