Every once in a while, football has its way of throwing up wild coincidences that gets fans and pundits scrambling for the rulebooks.
Having been though a stern test away at Turin on match day 6 of the UEFA Champions League group stages, Paris Saint-Germain thought they had won group H after beating Juventus 2-1 on Wednesday night.
However, in an extraordinary turn of events elsewhere in Israel, Benfica fired six past Maccabi Haifa to sneak their way past le Parisiens into the group winners’ pot for the next round’s draw.
Things were already looking interesting in Group H with Benfica emerging as the favourites to progress alongside PSG during the course of the competition.
Even with the 1-1 draws home and away to the Portuguese club, Messi and co. were looking at a potential round of 16 fixture against clubs finishing runners up in other groups with the likes of Dortmund, RB Leipzig, AC Milan, Frankfurt, Inter, Club Brugge and Liverpool.
However, the late swing in the away goals for Benfica means that it’s the Lisbon club that will now face one of these clubs while PSG’s possible opponents look a lot harder all of a sudden.
Manchester City, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Spurs, Bayern, Porto and Napoli are now the teams that will be in the hat to be drawn against PSG in the draw to be held on Monday.
Finishing top also means that Benfica have the arguable advantage of playing the second leg of their round of 16 tie at home.
So just how did top spot elude the Ligue One champions?
According to Article 17 of the UEFA regulations for this season’s competition, if two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, certain criteria are applied in order to determine their rankings.
With the pair’s head to head record identical and points deadlocked at 14, even metrics such as goal differential and goals scored weren’t enough to separate the clubs.
Each had scored 16 while conceding 7, meaning it had to come down to the column of goals scored away from home to settle the group standings, which is the 7th tiebreaker for clubs level on points as per the UEFA regulations.
Benfica were seemingly cruising against Haifa 3-1 to a second-place finish after only a quarter of an hour still to play.
However, goals from Rafa Silva, Henrique Araújo and Joao Mario meant that Lisbon club overhauled PSG’s away goal-haul of 6 by three goals, cementing their place at the top of group H.
Splitting hairs is the expression that comes to mind if you are a Paris Saint-Germain fan, however, it is not everyday that you see margins so narrow that they leave fans perplexed.