Madrid: Real Madrid shrugged off conceding an early away goal to take a huge step towards a seventh straight Champions League quarter-final as goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Casemiro sealed a 3-1 win over Napoli on Wednesday.
Lorenzo Insigne’s stunning 40-yard strike had the travelling hordes in dreamland after just eight minutes of the last 16 first leg. However, Benzema soon headed home an equaliser before Kroos and Casemiro fired home from outside the box early in the second half to give the holders a commanding lead ahead of the second leg on March 7. With former Napoli great Diego Maradona watching on, the atmosphere reached fever pitch before kick-off as up to 10,000 travelling fans were estimated to have made the trip from Naples for only their side’s second ever appearance in the last 16. By contrast, Real are in the knockout stages for the 20th straight season and it was the home fans who nearly had something to cheer inside 30 seconds as Benzema’s shot from close range was parried by Pepe Reina.
Bayern rout Arsenal:
In another match, Arsene Wenger’s future was plunged into further doubt as Thiago Alcantara inspired Bayern Munich to a 5-1 rout of hapless Arsenal to leave the Gunners facing a seventh straight last-16 exit. Bayern extended their Champions League record to 16 straight home wins by flooring the Gunners with three goals in ten second-half minutes. The defeat raises the pressure on Wenger for the return leg on March 7 with only Alexis Sanchez’s away goal for comfort. The result matched the 5-1 group-stage thrashing Arsenal received in Munich in November 2015.
Arjen Robben’s superb curling shot gave Bayern the lead on 11 minutes, but Sanchez levelled by drilling home after Manuel Neuer saved his penalty on 30 minutes. Bayern hit top gear after the break with a flurry of goals in quick succession. Robert Lewandowski headed Bayern back into the lead on 53 minutes before Thiago added two in quick succession while Thomas Mueller came off the bench to complete the rout.