SPORTS DESK : 30 NOVEMBER, 2023, 10:54 PM
Real Madrid romped to a 4-2 win over Napoli on Wednesday to qualify in first place from their Champions League group.
Napoli’s defeat stopped them following in second place, with the Italians facing Braga in the final group match to decide who progresses.
Record 14-time champions Madrid were already through but secured top spot with an entertaining win over the visiting Italian champions.
Giovanni Simeone put Napoli ahead early on, with Rodrygo and Jude Bellingham quickly netting to turn the game around.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa levelled for the visitors just after half-time but Madrid youngster Nico Paz smashed his team in front after 84 minutes and Joselu wrapped up the win in stoppage time.
“I’m so happy, this is a dream … for a moment I couldn’t believe it,” Paz told Movistar after helping Madrid continue their 100 percent record — five wins from five games.
“(My team-mates) were maybe even more happy than me, and I’m grateful to them for their support.”
Napoli, with Walter Mazzarri freshly reinstalled at the helm, started with Giovanni Simeone — the son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone — up front and he quickly pounced.
The Argentine forward turned home from Giovanni di Lorenzo’s cut-back and although Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin clawed his effort out, the ball had crossed the line.
However Madrid equalised almost instantly, with Brahim Diaz breaking and Rodrygo brilliantly finding the top corner.
The Brazilian netted twice at the weekend for Madrid and has hit a rich vein of form, with six goals in his last four games across all competitions.
Without Vinicius Junior, one of many Madrid stars out injured, his compatriot has raised his game.
Madrid took the lead through Bellingham after 22 minutes, planting a superb header across Alex Meret and in, after David Alaba found him with a fine searching cross.
Bellingham now has four Champions League goals in four games for Madrid, and a total of 15 in 16 appearances this season, making him by far the club’s leading scorer.
“Nobody could imagine him adapting like this here in this football, in this new club, he’s surprising everybody,” Ancelotti told Movistar.
“He’s spectacular at arriving in the box, he’s like a motorbike arriving in the area.”
Diaz came close to adding a third for Madrid but fired off-target, when he might have looked for Bellingham or Rodrygo instead.
England international Bellingham had his ankle looked at before the break, but emerged to keep pulling the strings for Madrid in the second half.
– Paz decisive –
Napoli quickly pulled level again, with Zambo Anguissa blasting home across Lunin after his attempted cross was blocked back into his path.
Madrid had the edge on the Italian champions after that and Joselu and Rodrygo both came close to putting Ancelotti’s side ahead again.
Meret made a superb save to deny Bellingham as he ran into the box, and another to keep out Antonio Rudiger’s header.
At the other end Napoli substitute Victor Osimhen had a goal ruled out for offside.
Eventually Madrid found their third goal when substitute Paz hammered a low effort into the bottom corner from long range to delight the Santiago Bernabeu.
The 19-year-old midfielder is tipped as a star of the future and made quite the impression on his second Champions League appearance.
“He’s a talent, a youngster from the youth academy who’s working with us, he scored an important goal, for him and for us,” added Ancelotti.
Joselu, who had missed some presentable opportunities, made amends in stoppage time with a close-range finish to put the cherry on the cake. BSS
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