UCL: Real Madrid advance into quarter-finals at Liverpool’s expense; Napoli canter through
Reigning champions Real Madrid have booked their spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League courtesy of a 6-2 aggregate success over Liverpool.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side beat Liverpool 5-2 at Anfield in the first leg last month, and they followed that triumph with a 1-0 victory in the second leg on Wednesday to comfortably advance into the final eight, with Karim Benzema registering the only goal of the contest late on.
Both teams had a number of opportunities during an open match Bernabeu, but it was a match largely dominated by Real Madrid, who were never in danger of letting the tie slip away from them.
James Milner captained Liverpool in the absence of Jordan Henderson, and it was an attacking lineup for the visitors, with Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah all included.
As for Real Madrid, Benzema was back to lead the hosts, with the forward recovering from the ankle issue that forced him to miss Saturday’s La Liga contest with Espanyol.
Benzema was involved inside the opening two minutes, racing onto a pass from Toni Kroos, although the offside flag was raised, and Alisson actually made a smart save to deny the forward.
Liverpool had a strong chance in the seventh minute when Salah got the better of Antonio Rudiger before feeding Nunez, but the striker’s low effort was saved by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The hosts had an opportunity of their own two minutes later when Vinicius Junior found space down the left before playing in Kroos, who delivered into a dangerous area, but it was just behind Benzema.
Kroos then tested Alisson from distance, before the Liverpool goalkeeper somehow kept out a close-range effort from Vinicius, who looked certain to score when he met a header from Antonio Rudiger.
An end-to-end match then saw Liverpool have another chance, with Jota getting his volley all wrong after Salah had picked out his teammate inside the Real Madrid penalty box.
Eduardo Camavinga struck the crossbar for Real Madrid in the 20th minute, with his powerful effort from outside the box smashing off the woodwork courtesy of a brilliant fingertip save from Alisson.
Luka Modric then fired just over the Liverpool goal two minutes later, before Courtois kept out a curling effort from Nunez down the other end, with the two teams somehow still level on the half-hour mark.
Vinicius again tested Alisson with a low strike 10 minutes before the end of the first period, before Courtois was called into action to keep out Gakpo, who struck a powerful effort towards the near post.
Both teams had a number of opportunities to score in a lively opening 45 minutes, but it was goalless at the break, with Real Madrid still leading 5-2 on aggregate in the tie.
Gakpo might have done better from a pin-point Trent Alexander-Arnold cross early in the second period, while Real Madrid continued to threaten, with Vinicius so dangerous for the hosts down the left.
Real Madrid should have opened the scoring in the 53rd minute when Federico Valverde broke into a one-on-one with Alisson, but the Liverpool goalkeeper made a smart save, before Salah failed to make the most of a two-on-one down the other end, with Eder Militao able to clear ahead of Nunez.
Alexander-Arnold make an excellent tackle to prevent Benzema from having a strike on goal in the 56th minute, but Liverpool were struggling to sustain pressure down the other end, with the Reds having a lot to do heading into the final 30 minutes of normal time at Bernabeu.
Valverde headed a Modric cross just over the Liverpool crossbar in the 63rd minute, before Benzema fired another chance over the goal six minutes later, with the score still goalless.
Real Madrid finally made the breakthrough in the 78th minute of the contest when their captain Benzema slotted the ball into the back of the net from close range, with Vinicius managing to poke the ball towards his teammate after failing the the most of a chance of his own.
Courtois kept out a late strike from Harvey Elliott, but Liverpool were unable to give their travelling supporters something to cheer, with Ancelotti’s side, who had a possible late penalty for a Kostas Tsimikas handball turned down by the referee following a check on the monitor, keeping a clean sheet en route to the final eight.
Real Madrid will now switch their attention back to La Liga, having the small matter of a trip to Camp Nou to take on leaders Barcelona on Sunday, but Liverpool will now not be in action until April 1, which will involve them travelling to the champions Manchester City in the Premier League.
Victor Osimhen’s brilliant campaign continued with a fine goal either side of half-time as Napoli secured their spot in Friday’s quarter-final draw with minimal fuss, a 3-0 win on the night completing a 5-0 aggregate victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Trailing 2-0 after the first leg, Frankfurt gamely sought a way back into the contest in an even first half. The match (if not the tie) just about hung in the balance until moments before half-time, when Osimhen himself hung with great balance – almost levitating – and planted a stunning header beyond Kevin Trapp from Matteo Politano’s cross.
If the Napoli’s first was a moment of individual brilliance, the second was all about the collective as a flowing team goal ended with Osimhen forcing the ball in from close range. Midway through the half Piotr Zieliński added further gloss for the home fans, picking himself up after being tripped by Djibril Sow and firing in from the spot.
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