In a decisive UEFA Champions League Group C encounter, Real Madrid hosted Napoli at the Santiago Bernabéu, with both teams seeking to solidify their positions. Real Madrid, already through to the round of 16, aimed to seal the top position, while Napoli, trailing by five points, looked to secure their first-ever victory against the Spanish giants.
The Bernabéu witnessed a thrilling start as Napoli took an early lead, to the excitement of the away fans in the 9th minute through Simeone. In less than 3 minutes, the on-fire Brazilian Rodrygo quickly responded with a curler aimed at the far post, giving the Napoli goalkeeper no chance to react. The first half ended with Jude Bellingham as he put the hosts ahead with a technically brilliant header with an inch-perfect cross from Alaba.
Two minutes into the second half, Anguissa pulled back a goal for the visitors to level up. After Brahim and Fede narrowly missed the Napoli post, the fans were disappointed by a close-range shot from Joselu, which went over the bar. This was followed by Zielinski going down in the 64th minute for Elmas to come in.
With twenty minutes left, Madrid’s midfield were seen tiring, especially in the defensive transition. Soon after, Fede broke into the opponent’s defensive wall trying to find Joselu, which went in vain as the ball easily found Meret’s hands. Jude’s shot from Rodrygo’s long pass was saved and bounced back to Joselu, who failed to find his way to the back of the net again. Then, the young Argentinian Nico Paz, who came in in the 65th minute, scored a winner in the final minutes. However, Rodrygo, who stood out throughout the game, requested a change after he was seen falling over soon after this. A pass from Bellingham was tapped in by Joselu in the dying minutes, sealing the win after the Spaniard had missed a couple of chances.
In the past encounters, having won four matches, Real Madrid held the upper hand, with Napoli has yet to defeat them. The most recent clash on Matchday 2 saw Real Madrid triumph 3-2 in Naples, with Vinícius Jr, Bellingham, and an own goal from Napoli’s goalkeeper, Meret, sealing the victory.
This match added another chapter to the dominance of Los Blancos over Napoli, extending their unbeaten streak against the Italian side. The previous knockout ties in the 2016/17 Champions League round of 16 also saw Real Madrid emerge both home and away victorious.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men, aiming to mirror their success from the 2021/22 season when they won the Champions League title, showcased their dominance on the group stage. Following a setback in the quarter-finals against Manchester City in the last season, Real Madrid made a strong comeback to assert their dominance in the ongoing campaign.
The Santiago Bernabéu once again proved to be a fortress for Real Madrid, with the team winning 16 of their last 23 home European games. Los Blancos consistently reached the knockout rounds, securing qualification for the 28th consecutive Champions League campaign.
On the other hand, Napoli faced a tough challenge against the Spanish giants. Led by Walter Mazzarri, since Matchday 4, the Italian club strived to overcome their past struggles against Real Madrid. Napoli’s final chance to influence their destiny in the group stage comes in the upcoming clash against Braga.
The victory marked Real Madrid’s fifth consecutive win in the current campaign and extended their unbeaten run against Italian clubs. Their record of 14 wins in the last 15 games against Italian opponents showcased their dominance in European competitions.
Despite having one more group stage match left, with the team securing first place in Group C, Real Madrid’s focus now shifts to the knockout rounds, where they will aim to continue their pursuit of European glory, as the Tifo, seen ahead of the game, said. The match against Napoli showcased their determination, which will be crucial in the challenges in the Champions League.