Real Madrid fend off Napoli to advance in Champions League

Naples, March 8 (IANS) Sergio Ramos led Real Madrid to a 3-1 victory over Napoli for a 6-2 win on aggregate in the second leg and a seventh consecutive trip to the Champions League football quarter-finals for the holders here.

Having already hoisted the trophy a record 11 times, the Blancos are trying to become the first team to win Europe’s elite club competition two years in a row, reports Efe.

Thanks to their away goal in the first leg in Madrid, Napoli, though clearly the underdogs, started the match knowing they could advance with a 2-0 performance.

The hosts started aggressively and the Blancos responded by sitting in and waiting for a chance to punish Napoli on the counterattack with the pace of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

But the Italian side’s ambition bore fruit in the 24th minute, when Dries Mertens took a pass from Marek Hamsik and beat Blancos goalkeeper Keylor Navas with a low shot to put Napoli ahead 1-0 on Tuesday night and within one on aggregate.

The goal forced Real Madrid to venture more on offense.

Ronaldo hit the post in the 29th minute and Mertens did likewise nine minutes later.

Real Madrid were much improved in the second half, with Ramos setting the tone.

On successive Toni Kroos corners, the Blancos captain scored in the 52nd and 57th minutes — though the second marker was later charged to Napoli’s Mertens as an own goal — to give the visitors a commanding 5-2 lead on aggregate.

Alvaro Morata added a goal in stoppage time for Real Madrid.