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PSG pipped to top spot in Champions League group by rampant Benfica

Benfica defender Nicolas Otamendi greets supporters after their win against Maccabi Haifa. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Nuno Mendes scored the winning goal within moments of coming on as a second-half substitute as Paris Saint-Germain beat Juventus 2-1 in Turin on Wednesday but the French side missed out on top spot in Champions League Group H in dramatic fashion to a rampant Benfica.

PSG and Benfica were both through to the last 16 before their final group games and sat level on points having drawn both of their meetings 1-1.

However, the Parisians’ goal difference was superior by four, meaning victory in Italy against an already-eliminated Juventus looked set to be enough to secure a theoretically easier tie in next Monday’s last-16 draw.

Mendes duly netted the decisive goal midway through the second half after Kylian Mbappe’s stunning opener had been cancelled out by Leonardo Bonucci.

Yet the biggest drama was unfolding in Israel, where Benfica scored five second-half goals to beat Maccabi Haifa 6-1.

A Goncalo Ramos headed opener for the Portuguese side was cancelled out by a Tjaronn Chery penalty in the 26th minute, but Petar Musa put Benfica back ahead just before the hour.

Alex Grimaldo, from a free-kick, and Rafa Silva added further goals and Henrique Araujo made it five in the 88th minute, before Joao Mario sealed a sensational win in the second added minute.

That goal proved crucial — Benfica and PSG finished tied on points, head to head, goal difference, and goals scored. Benfica topped the group thanks to their greater number of goals scored away from home.

“We have qualified, and we did the job to finish first. It wasn’t to be but that’s football,” Mbappe told broadcaster Canal Plus.

“The last 16 is not for a long time and lots of things can happen between now and then.”

PSG forward Lionel Messi controls the ball against Juventus. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP)

Exposed to tough draw

Nevertheless a PSG side beaten by Real Madrid in the last 16 last season are now exposed to the likes of Bayern Munich, Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City in the draw for the next round.

Benfica, meanwhile, could still face Liverpool, who knocked them out in the quarter-finals last season.

“Congratulations to Benfica for scoring more goals away from home than us,” said PSG coach Christophe Galtier.

“We often say that there is nothing rational about the Champions League and we have seen that tonight.

“There is still a draw to come. To go all the way you need to beat the biggest teams so we will see what it throws up.” 

Galtier gesticulated frantically to his players to push forward in injury time as news filtered through of Benfica’s victory, but it was too late.

Missing the suspended Neymar, they had gone ahead in the 13th minute when Lionel Messi fed Mbappe, who kept going despite having his shirt pulled by Federico Gatti before crashing in a shot from outside the area.

Juve equalised six minutes before the interval when Paris goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma got a fingertip to Juan Cuadrado’s header but the ball fell for Bonucci to slide in and score.

Portugal full-back Mendes came on for Juan Bernat in the 68th minute and put PSG back in front a minute later, flying down the left to latch onto Mbappe’s pass before firing low into the far corner.

Federico Chiesa then came on for Juventus to make his return after a long spell out with a knee injury but it was a disappointing night for the two-time European champions.

Manuel Locatelli had a late effort disallowed for offside as Juve — already eliminated from the Champions League before this game — took third above Maccabi Haifa on goal difference and drop into the Europa League after the World Cup.

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