Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino said the decision not to foul Karim Benzema for Real Madrid’s first goal “changed everything” in his team’s implosion on Wednesday.
The French giants were leading by a total of 2-0 when Benzema scored the first goal of his hat-trick just after hour at the Santiago Bernabeu, who lost 3-1 that night and 3-2 in the last-16 draw.
But Pochettino was upset that PSG were denied a free kick for Benzema’s challenge to Gianluigi Donnarumma after the visiting goalkeeper dwelled on the ball.
“It’s easy to explain what happened. 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 do not understand and which I will not forgive.
“I don’t understand why the referee didn’t ask for the VAR. From that moment everything changed in the stadium. Our players were angry, even though we have to admit that we made mistakes.”
French striker Benzema was clear that he thought it was no offense when Donnarumma gave a wrong kick under pressure.
“Not at all (was it a violation),” he told RMC Sport. “I pressed him, he waited and then he just lost the ball.”
Still looking for a first Champions League trophy, PSG capitulated in the closing stages, with Benzema’s winning goal within 11 seconds of kicking off after his second.
Pochettino’s position will now come under intense scrutiny, despite his team having a 13-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.
“The rest of the season will 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 will be angry, we know that.”
PSG have been widely tipped to finally end their Champions League spell after signing a host of new players last year, including Lionel Messi, Achraf Hakimi, Donnarumma and Sergio Ramos.
“We were well positioned to advance in the Champions League and with this squad we thought we could win it,” said sporting director Leonardo.
“We have to accept our mistakes, our problems, our inability to handle difficult times.”