Friday, June 23, 2017

Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli: Five things we learned as Los Blancos grab a deserved win

Milos Markovic in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 15 Feb 2017

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Zidane’s men deserve their win / Image via sports.ndtv.com

It was an exciting Champions League night at Santiago Bernabeu as Real Madrid secure a 3-1 win in the first leg of the last-16 tie against resilient Napoli.

Goals from Benzema, Casemiro and Kroos neutralised the first-half lead from Napoli, who got in front thanks to a wonderful goal from Insigne. Zinedine’s men were in control for the most part of the match and here are the five things we learned today:

Real’s defensive walls crack yet again

They might have been scoring plenty of goals this season, but Real Madrid still have a burning problem to deal with.

There is a big crack in their defence line and as soon as Zinedine Zidane identifies it, the better it will be for reigning Champions League holders. Ramos and Varane as the two centre-backs in front of Keylor Navas were left exposed due to their team’s fluency and high-pressure game against Napoli, which ultimately allowed Lorenzo Insigne to score a brilliant goal.

What it means is that Los Blancos have now conceded at least a goal in seven of their last eight matches in all competitions. Even more, Los Blancos have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last eight Champions League matches which, according to Opta, is their longest run since 2013.

Benzema once more proving his worth

With only five goals in his 16 La Liga matches for Real Madrid this season, the French striker Karim Benzema has been under a great deal of pressure lately. Having gone for an entire month without scoring, Benzema chose the perfect time to get back on the score sheet with his equalising header in the first half of the game versus Napoli.

The 29-year-old striker displayed great composure straight from the off and could have put his team in front after only 20 seconds when he tried to convert Ronaldo’s pass within the box, only to see Pepe Reina put in a strong hand to prevent a goal. The Frenchman had another great chance when Reina once again thwarting his effort in the nick of time, sending the ball into corner.

Overall speaking, Real Madrid forward managed to remove great load from his shoulders, which could be a huge morale boost for the player in the upcoming challenges.

Surprise, surprise…Ronaldo’s a proper team player

Portuguese superstar does indeed look a changed man. There are no more anxiety attacks on pitch, no nervous break downs. What we are seeing lately is a composed, mature performer concerned about his team’s wellbeing above all.

It all started when Zinedine Zidane took the helm, as a man Ronaldo respects and honours. The transformation culminated at the Euro 2016 when Portugal went on to win the European crown without injured Ronaldo on the pitch. True captain as he is, Ronaldo shouted from the touchline, offering his advice to the teammates as they went on to lift the coveted trophy.

And what’s there to be said about the current season. Four Champions League matches without a goal does not worry or trouble Cristiano Ronaldo. He seems rather happy providing for his men, just as he attempted to do with Karim Benzema on a couple of occasions in the first half and with Toni Kroos when he unselfishly tapped the ball back from within the box to tee up unmarked German.  

It was his fifth assist in the Champions league this season, but more importantly his 30th in the competition which allowed him to surpass Ryan Giggs and become the player with most assists in the Champions League.

Lack of experience cost Napoli dearly

The Italians are a tricky team to beat and the margin tonight should not deceive you into thinking that Napoli have nothing to look for in the Champions League – and in this tie which is still very much alive.

They topped the group – albeit a slightly weaker group than others on paper – and arrived to Madrid on the back of an 18-match unbeaten run in all competitions, which is enough of a proof of quality for Maurizio Sarri’s side.

It all started rather well for the visitors tonight as Insigne displayed great vision to score an incredible goal to put them in front, but it was the lack of experience in the competition that took the better of them in the end. Partenopei were unable to hold on to their lead, missing a chance to smother Real Madrid. Their resilience deserves great credit whereas the lack of experience was followed by the lack of fortune as Napoli had an 80th-minute goal disallowed for offside.

They have an away goal to boast with ahead of the return leg in Italy and they will undoubtedly look to exploit the noise of their Sao Paolo stadium.

Real Madrid deserved their big-margin win

Despite the fact they were forced to chase the result and come from behind to grab their win, Real Madrid came out deserved winners from the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli.

Real Madrid dominated the match and all segments of the 3-1 win which puts them in a rather fine position ahead of the return leg. Los Blancos finished the game with 55% possession to Napoli’s 45%. The hosts amassed the total of 19 goal attempts, six of which were on goal. On the other side, Napoli attempted to hit the target 8 times, but only 2 shots were directed towards Navas’ goal.

Real Madrid played well to confirm their favourite tag and to remain as one of bookies’ favourite choice at 4/1 betting odds to become the first champions to defend their title in the modern era of the competition.

REAL MADRID: Navas 6.5 – Carvajal 7, Ramos 7 (Pepe 6.5), Varane 7, Marcelo 7.5 – Modric 7.5, Casemiro 7.5, Kroos 8 – Rodriguez 7 (Lucas 6), Benzema 7.5 (Morata 6), Ronaldo 7.5

Unused Subs: Isco, Casilla, Nacho, Kovacic.

NAPOLI: Reina 6.5 – Ghoulam 6.5, Koulibaly 6.5, Albiol 6.5, Hysaj 6 – Zelinski 6 (Allan 6), Diawara 6.5, Hamsik 7 (Milik 6) – Callejon 6.5, Mertens 6.5, Insigne 7.5

Unused Subs: Rafael, Jorginho, Giaccherini, Maggio, Maksimovic

REFEREE: Damir Skomina

Other result this evening

Bayern Munich 5-1 Arsenal

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Milos Markovic


Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia Sportske.net, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently Soccernews.com and Futbolgrad.com. His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.

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