Real rally to overhaul Napoli

Real rally to overhaul Napoli

Real Madrid shrugged off conceding an early away goal to take a huge step towards a seventh straight Champions League quarterfinal as goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Casemiro sealed a 3-1 win over Napoli on Wednesday.

Lorenzo Insigne’s stunning 40-yard strike had the travelling hordes in dream land after just eight minutes of the last 16 first leg clash.

However, Benzema soon headed home an equaliser before Kroos and Casemiro fired home from outside the box early in the second half to give the holders a commanding lead ahead of the second leg on March 7.

With former Napoli great Diego Maradona watching on, the atmosphere reached fever pitch before kick-off as up to 10,000 travelling fans were estimated to have made the trip from Naples for only their side’s second ever appearance in the last 16.

By contrast, Real are in the knockout stages for the 20th straight season and it was the home fans who nearly had something to cheer inside 30 seconds as Benzema’s shot from close range was parried by Pepe Reina.

However, it was Napoli who got off to the perfect start just eight minutes in when Insigne took aim from 40 yards and caught Madrid ‘keeper Keylor Navas out of position with a superb effort that curled around the Costa Rica international.

Madrid, though, showed the response of champions to level just 10 minutes later when Dani Carvajal’s cross with the outside of his right boot picked out Benzema to power home a header from close range.

Madrid’s control of the first 45 minutes grew as the half went on and only a combination of Reina and the post denied the hosts a lead at the break.
The tie did swing decisively in Madrid’s favour within 10 minutes of the restart however.

Firstly, Ronaldo played provider once more with a fine run down the right and measured cut-back for Kroos to slot home from the edge of the box.

Then Napoli were struck by a thunderbolt from the most unlikely source as defensive midfielder Casemiro pounced on a looping clearance to volley first-time past a helpless Reina.

Bayern rout Arsenal
Arsene Wenger’s future was plunged into further doubt on Wednesday as Thiago Alcantara inspired Bayern Munich to a 5-1 rout of his hapless Arsenal team which left the Gunners facing a seventh straight Champions League last-16 exit.

Bayern extended their Champions League record to 16 home wins by flooring the Gunners with three goals in ten second-half minutes. Bayern knocked Arsenal out at the same stage in 2005, 2013 and 2014 and were looking comfortably placed to make it four times after romping through Wednesday’s first leg.

The Allianz Arena defeat raises the pressure on Wenger for the return leg on March 7 with only Alexis Sanchez’s away goal for comfort. The result matched the 5-1 group-stage thrashing Arsenal received in Munich in November 2015 — the club’s joint record away defeat in Europe.

Arjen Robben’s superb curling shot gave Bayern the lead on 11 minutes, but Sanchez levelled by drilling home Manuel Neuer’s save from a penalty on 30 minutes. Bayern moved up a gear after the break with a flurry of goals in quick succession. Robert Lewandowski headed Bayern back into the lead on 53 minutes before Thiago added two in quick succession while Thomas Mueller came off the bench to complete the rout.
AFP

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