What do you do when you have missed three penalties in the last month? Step up in a Champions League semi-final and score a Panenka, that’s what.
At least, that’s what Karim Benzema did anyway.
The Real Madrid striker showed nerves of steel as he dinked his spot-kick over Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson to make it 4-3 in their exhilarating first-leg defeat at Etihad Stadium.
The nonchalance summed up a sensational match between two of Europe’s heavyweights that showcased relentless attacking football throughout.
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said on BT Sport: “Ice cold, this guy. He has won four Champions League trophies. Even if it was in the last minute, he would’ve still executed it.”
Six days earlier Benzema missed two penalties in Real Madrid’s win over Osasuna – but he netted his ninth goal in his last four Champions League games on Tuesday night.
“I always have it in my head that if you don’t take a penalty, you will never miss a penalty,” said Benzema.
“That’s mental confidence, that’s all. I have a lot of confidence in myself so I do it and it turns out well.
“Now we have to go to the Bernabeu [for the second leg] and we will need our fans like never before and we are going to do something magical, which is win.”
Ex-England striker Alan Shearer laughed on BBC Radio 5 Live commentary as he watched Benzema’s penalty go in.
“All I can do is chuckle and think, ‘I cannot believe Karim Benzema has just done that.’ The sheer arrogance of it but also the belief and the ability to do that,” said Shearer.
“He seems to be getting better and better. The audacity! It was incredible.”
‘He changed it in training’
It was a frantic game at Etihad Stadium as City went 2-0 up within 11 minutes and missed several huge chances before Benzema got one back for Real before half-time.
City’s Phil Foden and Real’s Vinicius Junior scored in quick succession as the visitors kept fighting back, before Bernardo Silva fired the hosts 4-2 up.
Benzema’s late penalty ensured Real go into the second leg with just a one-goal deficit and manager Carlo Ancelotti believes the striker changed it up after missing two spot-kicks last week.
“I think he changed because the last two penalties were not good. He changed and tried it in training. I did not know how he would shoot,” said Ancelotti.
“He choose this and it goes really well. He has a strong personality and character. It is not easy in the semi-final of the Champions League to do a penalty like this.”
Former Real Madrid and City winger Steve McManaman told BT Sport Benzema would have been in trouble if he had missed.
“He missed two in his last game against Osasuna and he must’ve thought that Ederson would’ve been studying where he was trying to put the ball.
“He hasn’t done a Panenka so instead of going left or right he must’ve thought ‘now is the time’. They were 4-2 down at the time so he knows he would be criticised to the hilt [if he misses].”
Benzema is now up to 41 goals in all competitions this season, including 14 in the Champions League.
“Let’s hope he can end the season well, winning the league, the Champions League and the Ballon d’Or,” said team-mate Vinicius.
On this evidence, that does not seem beyond him.