Another night of glorious European football and some big results to go with as Real hosted Napoli & Arsenal made their annual trip to the Allianz.
Title holders, Real Madrid, hosted Napoli last night when the sides met in the first leg of UCL’s Round-Of-16. Diego Maradona came to the Spanish capital to support his former team & gave a pep-talk before the match started. Real started the game with intensity & could’ve gone ahead inside a minute had Benzema been more clinical. Real continued to create chances but a counter from Napoli & Insigne’s brilliance put Napoli ahead in the 8th minute. It was a howler from Keylor Navas who was caught out of position & gave Napoli a crucial away goal. But Real continued their relentless attacking & finally, Carvajal’s brilliant cross met Benzema’s head to restore parity. In the second half, it was more of the same from Real as they created one chance after the other. And it was Cristiano who showed some glimpses of his prime on the right flank to beat a couple of defenders & set Kroos up. The German slotted the ball home from close range. The next goal came 5 minutes later when Casemiro scored an incredible volley from a long way out. That may very well be the goal of the tournament. Napoli threatened a couple of times in the middle, the best chance came when Callejon set Mertens up but the Belgian couldn’t keep the ball between the sticks. Real also missed a plethora of chances & could’ve killed the tie off at the Bernabeu itself. Still, a glimmer of hope for Napoli as they have that all important away goal but a 2 goal advantage should see Real through.
Second leg to be played on 8th march.
Real Madrid 3 – 1 Napoli
(Benzema 18′, Kroos 49′, Casemiro 54′) (Mertens 8′)
Business As Usual
Another familiar fixture in this stage of the champions league as these sides met for the 4th time in 5 years. Bayern started the match strongly as Vidal tested Ospina in the first couple of minutes. But it was a familiar cut-in & shoot from Robben that put Bayern ahead in the 11th minute. 18 minutes later, Arsenal got a controversial penalty which Sanchez failed to convert. But he kept his cool to collect the rebound & slot it into the bottom left corner.A Crucial away goal for Arsenal. The second half took the wind out of Arsenal’s sails as Bayern’s relentless attacking brilliance was too much for Arsenal to handle. Lewandowski cushioned Lahm’s ball in to put Bayern ahead. Why is Lahm retiring I’ll never know. Thiago was next on the scoresheet after Lewandowski played him through by a cheeky backheel. Arsenal went into their shells after the 3rd, but Bayern still exploited the holes they left. Thiago scored the 4th for Bayern after his strike from the middle took a nasty deflection & the power on the ball was too much for Ospina to handle. 88th minute, Oxlade-Chamberlain gave the ball away on the edge of the box allowing Kimmich & Thiago to pounce. Thomas Muller lashed the ball past Ospina for the fifth. Game over? Or is there a comeback on the cards? After today’s shambolic display from the Gunners, a comeback seems like a distant dream.
Return leg on 8th march.
Bayern Munich 5 – 1 Arsenal
(Robben 11′,Lewandowski 53′, Thiago 56′, 63′, Muller 88′)(Sanchez 30′)
Advantage Real & Bayern. Next week we’ll have 4 more enticing fixtures & the picture of the final 8 will become a little clearer. Long live European nights.