UEFA Champions League
Round of 16, First-leg
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain
Champions Real Madrid have the advantage in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie against Napoli after the Spaniards came from a goal behind to defeat the Neapolitans 3-1 in the first-leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
Lorenzo Insigne’s early opener from-range gave the visitors the lead and a precious away-goal, but Karim Benzema’s header ten minutes later, levelled the scores. Toni Kroos then put Los Blancos ahead shortly after the break before Casemiro’s fantastic volley from-range extended the Spanish outfit’s first-leg tally.
The Champions initially started well and went close to taking the lead within the first 20 seconds when Cristiano Ronaldo’s pull-back found Benzema, whose first-time-effort forced Pepe Reina into a good save at his near-post.
However in the eighth minute the visitors took a surprise lead when Marek Hamšík found Insigne, who spotted Keylor Navas off his line and curled home first-time past the Costa-Rican from-range.
Three minutes later the hosts had a good chance to level the scores when Ronaldo did well to first, control a cross-field pass from Marcelo, and then find Benzema with a cross but the Frenchman could only head the ball wide. A minute later the Frenchman was found by James Rodríguez but again he could only head the ball off-target.
However six minutes later, Benzema wasn’t going to miss. The striker met a fantastic cross from the outside of Dani Carvajal’s foot, to head home past Reina.
In the 27th minute Los Blancos should have taken the lead when Ronaldo was played through on-goal by Luka Modrić, the Portuguese had just Reina to beat, but the forward unusually blazed the ball over the bar from close-range.
Four minutes from the break Madrid spurned another great chance to take the lead. After Ronaldo wonderfully found Benzema with a through-ball, the Frenchman had just Reina to beat but he fired the ball wide, off the outside of the post.
The hosts started the second-half well and four minutes into the restart they went ahead. Ronaldo beat Kalidou Koulibaly to the by-line and pulled the ball back to Kroos, who coolly curled the ball home past Reina.
Four minutes later the hosts went close to extending their lead when Marcelo fired a strike at goal but his effort flew just over the bar following a corner.
A minute later the Madridistas made it three. After a pass towards Rodríguez was intercepted, the loose ball fell to Casemiro, who spectacularly volleyed home from-range.
In the 61st minute the Neapolitans had a good chance to pull a goal back when former Real Madrid winger José Callejón was fouled just outside the area but Faouzi Ghoulam’s freekick curled just wide.
Four minutes later Ronaldo was looking to get onto the score-sheet when he latched onto Benzema’s pull-back but he could only fire over the bar.
Two minutes later the visitors had a great chance to reduce the deficit when a cross-field-pass from Amadou Diawara was pulled back to Dries Mertens by Callejón but the Belgian fired the ball over the bar from close-range, when he should have scored. Two minutes later the Belgian had another good chance when he was played through by Insigne but his effort was smothered well by Navas.
Three minutes later the hosts had a good chance to make it four when Kroos wonderfully found Rodríguez with a fine pass but the Colombian’s effort was smothered well by Reina.
In the 80th minute the visitors thought they had pulled a goal back when Diawara’s fine cross-field pass was headed back across the face of goal by Insigne into the path of Callejón, who tapped home at the back-post but the flag was up to deny the former Madrid man.
Two minutes later Madrid went close to a fourth when Modrić curled the ball just over the bar following a corner.
Madrid had one last chance to make it four. In the 84th minute substitute Álvaro Morata pulled the ball back to Ronaldo, who teed up Marcelo, but his cross-come-shot drifted wide across the face of goal with Morata expecting the Brazilian to go for goal instead.
The result meant that Real Madrid will go into the second-leg with a two-goal margin, however thanks to Insigne’s away goal, should Napoli score two goals in the second-leg and prevent Madrid from scoring, they will progress into the Quarter-finals instead.