Real Madrid rallies to beat Napoli 3-1
Real Madrid rallies to beat Napoli 3-1
Madrid rallied to defeat Napoli 3-1 in the first leg of the Round of 16 on Wednesday. Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Casemiro all scored after Lorenzo Insigne’s extraordinary goal for Napoli less than 10 minutes into the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The Italian forward struck an unexpected shot from way outside the area, catching Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas out of position. But the visitors could not hold on to their lead against a Madrid team that delivered one of its best performances for weeks.
“We played a great game,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “It was a shame about the Napoli goal, but we recovered, scored ourselves and turned the game around.”
“I’m happy with the result,” Zidane added, already looking ahead to the return match on March 7. “We’ll go there to a difficult ground where we’ll suffer. It’s still an open game. We need to go there and finish it off.”
Playing in the last 16 for only the second time, Napoli was one game short of equaling its unbeaten record of 19 matches in all competitions. It had not lost since a 2-1 defeat by Juventus in Serie A last October, a streak that included 12 victories.
“We faced the best team in the world, but it’s a pity that we made so many mistakes with the ball because we usually don’t do that,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “I think Madrid played their best game in three months, while we were not at our best tonight — We can compete with them if we play our best football.”
Madrid, which won its 11th Champions League title last season, extended its streak without a home loss in the European competition to 12 matches.
In the other Round of 16 game on Wednesday, Bayern Munich routed Arsenal 5-1 in Germany.
With former great Diego Maradona supporting from the tribunes, and nearly 5,000 fans loudly cheering from the stands, Napoli made an ideal start with Insigne opening the scoring with his superb long-range strike in the eighth minute.
He received a through-ball from captain Marek Hamsik and struck a first-time shot from about 30 meters (yards) out to catch Navas off-guard. The ball bounced once before hitting the net near the far post as Navas desperately tried to recover.
“Despite the result, I think we played a good game,” Insigne said. “Now we have the return leg at the San Paolo Stadium and I’m sure that we will fight even more. Real Madrid are the world champions, a team with 18 phenomenal players in their squad, (but) I did not see such a huge difference as the result would suggest. Maybe we made too many mistakes — this will only push us to work even more.”
Benzema leveled 10 minutes later with a header after a cross by Dani Carvajal from the right flank, scoring his first goal in six games and surpassing Thierry Henry as the French player with the most goals in Champions League history with 51.
Benzema, Madrid’s top scorer in this season’s Champions League with five goals, almost added another in a breakaway just before halftime, but his attempt struck the post.
Kroos put Madrid ahead from just inside the area in the 49th minute after Cristiano Ronaldo cleared a defender to set up the German midfielder. Casemiro sealed the victory with his perfectly struck volley from outside the area in the 54th, hitting the far corner.
Napoli had a goal disallowed for offside in the 80th.
“There is still a lot left to do,” Casemiro said. “We know that they are dangerous when playing at their stadium. We have to maintain our calm and our focus.”
Ronaldo had a great chance to score in the 28th minute, but his shot from close range sailed over the crossbar.
The star forward remains two goals short of becoming the first player to score 100 goals in European competitions. He is the Champions League’s leading scorer with 95, two more than Messi.
Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test
- Young Scottish star was very impressive during Liverpool's 5-1 aggregate destruction of Man City in last-eight clash.
- Robertson refuses to take Roma lightly after their shock victory over Barcelona in the last round.
LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.” Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million). But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory. “He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”
HEART OF GOLD
Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”