The round of 16 in the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League concluded with Real Madrid and Napoli seeing off Liverpool and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively. Both of those teams won the away legs three weeks ago by comfortable margins. Real Madrid dismantled Liverpool with a three-goal second half. Napoli continued its masterful form by dispatching Frankfurt after Randal Kolo Muani picked up a red card.
Both of those teams knew that, entering this game, all they had to do was contain their opponent. While Liverpool has a history of comebacks in the Champions League, it failed to exact one on Real Madrid. As a result, for the fourth time in the last six seasons, Los Blancos eliminate the Reds in the Champions League.
Real Madrid and Napoli advance to quarterfinals of UCL
Real Madrid sees off Liverpool again
Despite not needing to score, Real Madrid clearly wanted to hush out any chance of a Liverpool comeback. The highlights of Real’s barrage on the Liverpool net were a couple of fantastic saves from Alisson. On one occassion, the Brazilian robbed his compatriot Vinicius Jr. with a desperation clearance at the goal line. Not long after that, a lunging save tipped an Eduardo Camavinga shot onto the crossbar.
Liverpool had chances, too. Darwin Núñez forced two saves out of Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the first half, looking to jump start Liverpool. Diogo Jota also had a chance on the volley that he lashed wide of the frame.
In the second half, though, Real Madrid dominated. After a number of chances that the hosts failed to tuck away, Karim Benzema put the tie to bed. A perfect ball between Liverpool lines from Camavinga to Benzema allowed the recipient to turn. Despite Virgil van Dijk getting his body in the way, the ball fell to Vinicius, who fanned on a shot. Yet, the ball stayed at his feet, allowing him to fling a pass over to Benzema, who passed it into the net with Alisson challenging Vinicius.
Real Madrid is through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the third-straight year as it looks to defend its title.
Napoli makes history of its own
The same cannot be said about Napoli. Luciano Spalletti has Napoli breaking its own barriers. While the 18-point gap in Serie A is one thing, this is Napoli’s first ever trip to the quarterfinals of the Champions League or European Cup. And, it is not that Napoli is beating up on the lower teams in the Champions League.
Yes, the club’s goal differential after eight games is +19 with seven wins and a loss. But, some of those major wins are against elite sides. Liverpool, Ajax and now last season’s Europa-league-winning Frankfurt side all felt the wrath of this Napoli team.
Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Frankfurt, coupled with a 2-0 scoreline in Germany, has Napoli breezing into the knockout stage. While Khvicha Kvaratskhelia did not feature on the scoreline in this game, his partner leading the line did, twice. Victor Osimhen, who is certainly poised for a move to one of Europe’s traditional giants, bagged a brace against Frankfurt.
The first showed his athleticism, leaping up above the Frankfurt defense and heading a cross over a helpless Kevin Trapp. The second goal did leave some concerns, as he needed his wrist wrapped up after tapping home from the goal line. The Nigerian, fortunately, continued, perhaps showing the knock is not too serious.
Both Napoli and Real Madrid learn their foes for the Champions League quarterfinals during the draw on Friday morning at 7.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Lagencia
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