Last night we kicked off the final fixtures of this year’s UCL round-of-16. The holders, Real Madrid faced a hostile atmosphere at Stadio San Paolo & Arsenal were looking for a miracle to break their RO16 curse.
Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich(1-5 first leg):
The Bundesliga champions were hot favourites to head into the next round having won the first leg 5 goals to 1. Arsene Wenger needed a positive result to calm all the speculations regarding his job & Arsenal did start the match that way. Arsene left Ozil on the bench which was a little surprising as on his day he’s simply majestic. But that didn’t damper their football as Theo Walcott opened the scoring for the gunners 20 minutes into the match. He burst through down the right & smashed a lovely finish into the back of the net. Arsenal finally had a lifeline & they had the chance to pull further ahead but Giroud’s wayward finish let them down. It was almost an impossible task, to begin with, but the shift they put in in the first half was indeed commendable. 8 minutes into the second half & Koscielny fouled Lewandowski inside the area & Bayern were awarded a penalty which was converted. But the bigger blow was Koscielny’s dismissal. 10 men & that too against one of the greatest teams in the world. Bayern made their numerical superiority count 13 minutes later as Ospina’s poor clearance presented a golden opportunity to Robben who made no mistake slotting it home from close range. 7-2 & that’s curtains for Arsenal. But the misery didn’t end there as Robben’s replacement, Douglas Costa, skipped past Mustafi & curled the third one home. Bayern still pressing, still rampant & still out for blood. Vidal added the 4th & 5th inside 5 minutes. Alonso & Costa with the assists. 1-5 the scoreline.
What is wrong with Arsenal? How long can this mediocrity persist? Fans want some definite answers & they want it now.
Arsenal 1 – 5 Bayern Munich
(Walcott) (Lewandowski, Robben, Costa, Vidal x2)
10-2 on aggregate.
SSC Napoli Vs Real Madrid(1-3 first leg):
After losing the top spot to Barcelona in La Liga, Real Madrid focused on their favourite competition. Napoli has Italy’s 3rd largest stadium & a hostile atmosphere to pair it with. Fans were inside the stadium 4 hours prior kick-off & made an almost unplayable atmosphere for the visitors. Napoli’s game complemented the electricity inside the stadium. High press & silky passes gave all kinds of trouble to the holders. Real were wobbling & the fans were loving it. 24th minute & Hamsik’s incisive pass played Mertens on & the Belgians clinical finishing put Napoli ahead. The stadium went berserk, the fans were baying for blood. 1 more goal & a clean sheet & they’d beat the mighty Real Madrid. Mertens almost got another after his effort out of thin air hit the woodwork. The closest Real came in the first half was when Ronaldo chased Kroos’s ball & beat the keeper only to hit the post. You’d bet on him to put those away every single day. Napoli went into the tunnels leading by a goal to nil. There’s been a trend this season. Real has improved significantly in the second half, more often than not and last night was no exception. Real won a corner in the 51st minute & their majestic captain got them their all-important away goal. 6 minutes later, another corner and this time from the right but the result was the same. Sergio Ramos rose above everyone else to put Real ahead. The ball took a nasty deflection from Mertens on its way in & was given as an own goal. Alvaro Morata netted the third after being subbed in for Karim Benzema. Ronaldo’s effort from the left was blocked by Reina but the rebound fell at the feet of the charging Spaniard. After a very good first half, Napoli failed to keep up the intensity & a hurt Real Madrid showed why they are the title holders. 6-2 on aggregate the score for Real.
SSC Napoli 1 – 3 Real Madrid
(Mertens) (Ramos, Mertens(OG), Morata)
6-2 on aggregate.
A mountain to climb for Barcelona as they look to overturn PSG’s 4-0 cushion. Dortmund too needs to be more clinical upfront if they are to get something out of the tie against Benfica. Both matches tonight, 1.15 A.M IST.