Madrid picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and came right back at the visitors. By the 18th minute this round of 16 first leg was level, Karim Benzema rising to head in a gorgeous cross off the outside of Dani Carvajal’s boot.
Benzema went close to putting Madrid ahead before half-time, denied by the post, yet the reprieve was brief for Napoli. Fine goals from Toni Kroos and Casemiro – the second a volley – in the opening nine minutes of the second period gave Madrid a 3-1 lead to take to Naples in three weeks.
Key player: Casemiro (Real Madrid)
The No14 is an integral part of this Madrid team, a key piece of the jigsaw. His defensive shielding in front of the back four helps keep them protected and here – Napoli‘s goal aside – his performance in that sense was exemplary. Add to that a sublime volley that gave his side breathing space.
Fight fire with fire
The talk heading into this fixture was how Madrid were going to cope with Napoli‘s counterattacking and the answer was simple: fight fire with fire. After falling behind early on, they tightened up defensively and their own version of the break was slick and caused chaos for the visiting defence. The Merengues wanted to take an advantage to Italy and this was a job well done – truth be told, the cushion could have been greater.
Madrid win midfield battle
Maurizio Sarri made a brave decision selecting 19-year-old Amadou Diawara and 22-year-old Piotr Zieliński. They are both highly promising – and confirmed it tonight – but it was Casemiro, Kroos and Luka Modrić who dominated the midfield. The experience will stand the youngsters in good stead and, regardless of how this tie finishes, this Napoli outfit have a bright future.