NEWS
Tuesday March 7 2017
CL: Napoli fall to Real Madrid

Napoli dominated the first half and were leading 1-0 through Dries Mertens, but once again Real Madrid turned it around through a Sergio Ramos brace and Alvaro Morata.

See how it all unfolded on the Liveblog.

It’s an exit in the Round of 16 for Maurizio Sarri’s men, but with heads held high, as they out-played the Club World Cup and Champions League holders for long periods over the two legs.

The first leg ended 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Lorenzo Insigne’s opening lob from midfield kept the tie alive as a precious away goal. Allan returned from a muscular injury to start in place of Piotr Zielinski, while Mertens retained his place as the centre-forward. Gareth Bale wasn’t fully fit for the first leg, but started in the BBC with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Marek Hamsik drilled wide early doors as Napoli absolutely dominated possession with a strong pressing game. Insigne’s snapshot was fingertipped round the post by Keylor Navas, while Pepe Reina smothered a Toni Kroos volley and Bale meek effort.

Napoli’s pressure paid off with an opening goal, as at the end of a long passing game Hamsik cushioned the assist for Mertens, who drilled from six yards into the far bottom corner. The San Paolo crowd went wild and it was his 17th goal in the last 16 competitive games.

Cristiano Ronaldo wasted a golden opportunity to equalise soon after, as Kalidou Koulibaly accidentally clattered Reina, but CR7 only hit the outside of the near post from a tight angle.

Koulibaly had a free header on a corner, but turned it well over, then Mertens was denied a brace by the woodwork on 38 minutes with his effort from the edge of the box.

Hamsik ran at the two centre-backs, ran out of steam and fired wide, another chance parried at the base of the near post by Keylor Navas.

Karim Benzema hit the side-netting, but Real Madrid continued their record of always finding the net in their last 47 competitive games. Hamsik’s misplaced pass sparked a counter and from that corner Sergio Ramos got his now traditional glancing header to draw level.

To make matters worse, six minutes later it was another goal from Sergio Ramos, whose header from another corner took a deflection off Mertens. It was later awarded as a Mertens own goal.

The two goals in such quick succession made it 5-2 on aggregate, meaning Napoli needed to win 5-2 on the night and the enthusiasm drained out of the arena.

Dani Carvajal turned over after a juggling act in the box, but the game and thus the tie were over. Mertens still had time to be denied a penalty for a shove in the back late on.

Alvaro Morata came off the bench and scored with the last kick of the game. Reina denied Cristiano Ronaldo at the near post and Morata followed it up.

Napoli 1-3 Real Madrid (2-6 agg)

Mertens 24 (N), Ramos 51, 57 (RM), Morata 92 (RM)

Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Raul Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan (Rog 56), Diawara, Hamsik (Zielinski 75); Callejon, Mertens, Insigne (Milik 70)

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric (Isco 80); Bale (Lucas Vazquez 68), Benzema (Morata 77), Cristiano Ronaldo

Ref: Cakir (TUR)