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Real Madrid, Napoli reach Champions League quarters

Defending champions Real Madrid and runaway Serie A leaders Napoli have booked their places in the Champions League quarter-finals with respective home wins.

March 16, 2023
16 March 2023

There has been no historic comeback for Liverpool in Spain as Real Madrid’s title defence in the Champions League rolls into the quarter-finals.

Liverpool never really came close to overcoming their three-goal deficit from the first leg against the titleholders at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, losing 1-0 to end their hopes of another run to the final.

Karim Benzema scored late and Madrid, in their 300th Champions League game, advanced to the last eight for the third straight season, 6-2 on aggregate.

Napoli defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 in the other round-of-16 match of the night, 5-0 on aggregate, to join Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Manchester City in the draw for the quarters on Friday.

A Victor Osimhen double and a Piotr Zielinski penalty getting the job done for the runaway Serie A leaders in Naples.

Liverpool were trying to pull off something never done before in the Champions League — erase a three-goal loss as visitors. Only five times the team that lost at home rallied in the second leg in Europe’s top club competition.

The only time Madrid failed to advance in the Champions League after winning the first leg on the road was in 2019, when they were eliminated by Ajax Amsterdam in the round of 16. They had won six of their last seven matches against Liverpool in the tournament, drawing another.

Benzema scored from close range after a pass by Vinicius Junior in the 79th minute. The France striker, who had missed Madrid’s La Liga win against Espanyol last weekend because of an injury, has scored 13 goals in his last eight Champions League knockout stage matches.

Liverpool came out with an attack-minded line-up and showed their intentions early, with Darwin Nunez forcing Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make a tough save seven minutes in.

Madrid had chances as well, with Eduardo Camavinga coming close in the 20th with a shot from outside the area that struck the crossbar after Alisson Becker got a hand to it. The Liverpool goalkeeper also stopped a Vinicius Junior effort in the first half and another in the second in a one-on-one situation with midfielder Federico Valverde.

Juergen Klopp kept trying to push his team forward from the sideline, but as the minutes passed it became clear it wasn’t going to be enough for his Reds.

Liverpool had managed a big comeback at home in the 2019 semi-finals, rallying against another Spanish club, Barcelona. They won 4-0 after losing 3-0 at Camp Nou to keep alive a run that eventually ended with the team winning the trophy.

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