At a time when the renewal of the Spanish title seems a little more difficult, having a “classic” with Barcelona at the weekend to shorten distances, Real Madrid was exemplary in defending its status as European champions, qualifying this Wednesday for the Champions League quarter-finals with a 1-0 triumph at the Santiago Bernabéu over Liverpool. After a spectacular 2-5 comeback victory at Anfield in the first leg, the Merengues almost limited themselves to managing the effort against an opponent who knew what he had to do – attack and score goals – but who never did. managed to do.
Far from the spectacularity that was the first clash between the two finalists last season, this reunion between the “blancos” and “reds” was, above all, a great demonstration of the competitive power of Ancelotti’s team, very stable and cool. And, to the same extent, an on-field test of some instability for Jurgen Klopp’s men. Liverpool’s growing frustration was evident with each attack absorbed by Real. He needed to score three to at least tie the duel. He didn’t score any.
It wasn’t for lack of forwards. Liverpool had many in their starting eleven – Mo Salah, Darwin Nuñez, Cody Gakpo and Portuguese Diogo Jota. He felt like scoring early and he wasn’t far from doing so in the 7th minute. Salah teased Rudiger’s mistake and sent the play to Darwin. The former Benfica striker still managed a squared shot, but Courtois defended with great competence.
An early Liverpool strike would have relaunched the tie, giving the visitors the emotional fuel they needed. But that goal never came. And it always seemed closer to happening in Alisson Becker’s goal. At 14′, Vinícius caught an aerial ball in the small area, but his compatriot defended with his right arm. And at 20′, Camavinga gave the Brazilian goalkeeper another opportunity to shine – Alisson saves a tremendous shot from the Frenchman to the crossbar.
Courtois also stopped the Liverpool strikers from rehearsing. Darwin (one of the best on his team) tried well in the 33rd minute and Gakpo also attempted a shot in the 35th minute, but the Belgian was very attentive in both moments. Real were always on the lookout for a space and, on several occasions, had the opportunity to leave the tie closed, but only ended the suffering of the opponent in the 79th minute. Benzema was opportunistic in the middle of the debacle of the “red” defense. Van Dijk was distracted and allowed Vini a low cross towards the Frenchman – he just had to push it inside.
In parallel with the pace of champions that it shows in the Italian Serie A, Napoli also does not slow down in the Champions League, guaranteeing its place among the eight best teams in Europe with a new triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt, this time by 3-0 at Diego Armando Maradona, after winning two weeks ago in Germany by 0-2. It is the first time that the Neapolitan team has reached this stage of the Champions League – their best, so far, was four appearances in the “eighth”.
It was a dominating performance by Napoli, which had the Portuguese Mário Rui in the starting line-up. Even so, he had to wait until the end of the first half to celebrate the first goal. At 45+2′, Politano made the cross and Osimhen made it 1-0. The Nigerian got the hang of it and, in the opening minutes of the second half, doubled the advantage, this time after a cross from Di Lorenzo. Zielinski closed the game accounts at 64′ in the conversion of a penalty.