BENZEMA: HAT-TRICK BOOSTS BALLON D'OR BID

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is an early frontrunner for this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or award after he scored a hat-trick against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League this week thus making him the first player to score successive Champions League hat-tricks since Cristiano Ronaldo achieved the feat at Real Madrid during the 2016/17 season.


French international Benzema had earlier scored the first of his two successive hat-tricks during the second leg of the last 16 tie between his Real Madrid side and French Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint Germain (PSG). He scored the hat-trick in the space of seventeen (17) second half minutes to help Real Madrid overturn a 1-0 deficit on the might and a 2-0 deficit in the tie. His three goals ensured that Real Madrid defeated PSG 3-1 at home in the second thereby progressing to the quarterfinals thanks to a 3-2 aggregate victory. Young French striker KylianMbappe was responsible for the two PSG goals in the tie. He scored the winner in added time to give PSG a 1-0 lead from the first leg, but his team failed to hold on to that lead in the second leg.

Benzema scored two headed goals in three first half minutes to help Real Madrid establish a two-goal cushion. His first goal was scored on 21 minutes off the cross from Brazilian international Vinicius Junior and the second goal was from the cross from the outstanding Luka Modric. German star Kai Havertz pulled one goal back for hosts Chelsea five minutes from the end of the first half before Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the first minute of the second half. Real Madrid thereafter preserved the 3-1 scoreline until the end of the game to take firm control of the tie ahead of the second leg in Madrid.
Real Madrid striker Benzema was in the running for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award last year, but he was dropped from the list of the final three nominees. Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski won a second successive FIFA Ballon d'Or award last year ahead of PSG superstar Lionel Messi and Liverpool attacker Mohamed Salah.