And with that, I’m gone. It’s been a blast. Bye!
Gareth Bale has a chat with BT Sport. He says this:
No, we weren’t concerned. We knew it’s a difficult place to come, we knew there was going to be an onslaught from them. We just had to be solid, be patient and wait for our moment, and that happened. They were going to come after us and try to get their fans behind them. We tried to deal with it as best we could. Obviously we could have been a bit better, but we knew we would get chances in the end, and thankfully we took them. It’s a very hostile atmosphere. We had to stay solid defensively, and work hard for each other. We want to win, we want to win every trophy we’re in for. That’s just the mindset we had.
Napoli were excellent for most of the match, but their position was precarious and it only took a goal to send them spinning. The marking from set pieces wasn’t good enough, none of their own players really attacked the ball from either of those Kroos corners (Koulibaly had a bit of a go from the second, but got nowhere near it), and with Sergio Ramos around they weren’t going to get away with it. A shame, really, as in the first half the home side were superb, and we seemed set for a thrilling, clean-sheet-dependent finale.
So both of tonight’s Champions League second legs finished with the same score as the first leg.
Final score: Napoli 1-3 Real Madrid
90+3 mins: A fabulous hour or so of dramatic, high-tempo, intense football, followed by a downbeat final half-hour once the tie was effectively decided, and Real Madrid march through.
90+2 mins: There will be two minutes of stoppage time. And they’re nearly over.
GOAL! Napoli 1-3 Real Madrid (Morata, 90 mins)
Marcelo passes to Ronaldo inside the penalty area, and though Reina pushes out his shot, Morata thumps in the rebound!
89 mins: Diaware fouls Kroos, and gets himself a booking.
87 mins: Napoli attack, Mertens runs into the penalty area and Lucas Vázquez, I think, shoulder-barges him over. The referee is unimpressed, but it looked like a foul to me. The Belgian beats the turf with frustration.
86 mins: It’s Arsenal 1-5 Bayern Munich (2-10 on aggregate). Failing in style.
83 mins: Hilarious miss! Real hog the ball for an age against opponents who are mentally back in the dressing room. Isco’s cross is headed out and Carvajal runs onto it, chests down, juggles up and then, by now on his own and seven yards from a yawning goal, shoots over.
This, meanwhile, is kind of semi-true. Good delivery and poor marking helps, but Ramos is singularly gifted at attacking a set-piece.
80 mins: Real’s final change sees Isco replace the largely peripheral Modric.
80 mins: Meanwhile at the Emirates, it’s now Arsenal 1-4 Bayern Munich, and the Germans lead 9-2 on aggregate.
79 mins: Marcelo crosses, Ronaldo chests down, but his shot hits Koulibaly and runs to safety. This, meanwhile, is rather well put.
76 mins: Mertens goes down, claiming that he was poleaxed by an opponent. While he’s treated, Morata replaces Benzema for Real.
75 mins: Napoli bring Zielinski on for Hamsik. It’s all gone a bit quiet in Naples now. Well, comparatively quiet.
73 mins: Ronaldo is played in down the right, Reina comes out too, and though he doesn’t get the ball the keeper harries and badgers his opponent, getting further and further from his goal, before prodding out for a throw-in.
71 mins: “Even though I’m by no means a Real Madrid fan, I find it impossible to root against Zidane,” writes Kari Tulinius. “He brought me so much joy as a player that I just want him to be happy and successful for the rest of his life. What a marvel he was in his pomp, I can’t think of a midfielder active today who compares to him.” He was indeed fabulous, but I reckon I could turn against him pretty quickly. I mean, I’m normally a decent enough guy, but football does that to people.
70 mins: Napoli take off Insigne, and bring on Arkadiusz Milik.
68 mins: Actually replays show that Mertens got the very slightest touch to the ball before he ran into Navas and fell over. So the penalty claim was not ludicrous, merely a bit silly.
68 mins: Lucas Vázquez has come on, replacing Bale for Real Madrid.
67 mins: Mertens roars into the area as the ball rumbles low across it. Nobody touches it, and Mertens collides with Navas, goes over and claims a penalty for his troubles. The whole idea is ludicrous, and he doesn’t get one.
65 mins: Ghoulam passes the ball across the edge of the penalty area to Rog, whose first touch is imperfect and whose shot is thus hurried, and wide.
63 mins: “While Ronaldo finds it difficult to influence games against the best teams, it is Ramos who headed goals were key to Real Madrid’s wins in their two recent Champions League finals. Plus he won the World Cup!” writes Johannes Starke. “While Ronaldo might be the flashiest player of the last few years, Ramos surely is the most decisive!” It’s certainly amazing for a team with Real’s array of attacking talent to also have the Ramos-from-a-set-piece option to fall back on.
61 mins: Sergio Ramos now has eight goals in La Liga and the Champions League this season, making him Real’s leading scorer behind Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo and Morata (and he’s only one behind Bale).
58 mins: And that is very much curtains for this tie. Napoli trail 2-5 on aggregate, and need to score four to win.
GOAL! Napoli 1-2 Real Madrid (Sergio Ramos, 57 mins)
Instant replay! Real win another corner, this from the right flank, and as before Kroos takes and Ramos heads and scores, the ball flicking off a defender on its way into the net, though it was surely heading there anyway.
56 mins: Napoli make a change, the freshly-cautioned Allan coming off and Marko Rog coming on.
55 mins: Meanwhile at Arsenal the comeback is off, as indeed is Koscielny, and Lewandowski has scored from a penalty to make it 1-1 there too.
53 mins: So just to be clear, it’s 2-4 on aggregate, and instead of needing to score one more goal to win, Napoli need to score twice to go to extra time.
52 mins: Kroos takes the kick, Sergio Ramos runs to meet it at the near post, rises highest, and heads in at the far post, which stands entirely unprotected.
GOAL! Napoli 1-1 Real Madrid (Sergio Ramos, 52 mins)
… from which Sergio Ramos heads in!
51 mins: Hamsik doesn’t get every pass right. He tries to pick out Diawara in his own half as Real press, Kroos intercepts and the visitors roar forwards, ending with a corner.
50 mins: I mean, they did stop running for a while at half-time, but then they started again straight afterwards.
49 mins: Napoli still haven’t stopped running. Can they keep this up for 90 minutes?
47 mins: First shot of the half comes from the right boot of Karim Benzema, and though it’s vicious, it’s also wayward.
46 mins: Real kick off, race forward, and Ronaldo’s looping high cross is collected by Reina. Deep breath now, this could get wild.
The players are on their way back out. Half two is but a few moments away.
Meanwhile at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal are 1-0 up against Bayern Munich and just three unanswered second-half goals from progressing.
Half time: Napoli 1-0 Real Madrid
45+2 mins: Koulibaly fouls Ronaldo near the half-way line, and the referee blows his whistle. Seems he enjoyed blowing it, because he promptly does it again a couple of times, and that’s the interval.
45+1 mins: Into stoppage time we roll, and there’ll be about one minute of it.
45 mins: Carvajal goes down near the right touchline, wailing and rolling and spinning and clutching his left ankle. Looks like Allan trod on it while they competed for possession.
41 mins: Hamsik is played in, as he races down the left side of the penalty area, but instead of attempting to pick out a team-mate he attempts an extremely optimistic shot from an acute angle, which Navas saves.
39 mins: Hamsik’s played through, but it turns out he doesn’t have the pace to stay ahead of Pepe and is forced to shoot from distance. It goes wide.
37 mins: Now Napoli hit the post! The ball’s worked in from the right, Kroos tackles but only sends the ball spinning on the ground into the penalty area, where Mertens tries to pass inside the far post, but hits the outside of it instead.
35 mins: Napoli win a corner, send it into the mixer, and Koulibaly runs clear of his marker, leaps on his own, and heads wildly over the bar.
32 mins: Real have fully woken. Napoli continue to press well, but now the visitors are matching them for application.
29 mins: Ronaldo has a great chance, and hits the post! He’s picked out as he sprints between Napoli’s centre-backs, controls instantly, rounds the keeper, and then cracks it against the near post! Bale gets to the rebound first and sends in a cross that flies across goal without anyone getting on the end of it.
28 mins: Now Insigne and Mertens exchange passes, and they end with the Italian having a decent shooting chance from the edge of the area, but he doesn’t make clean contact and gets no power on his effort.
26 mins: That was a lovely goal. The assist in particular was super. “This place is manic!” exclaims Peter Drury. “Manic, frenzied, crazed.”
25 mins: Hamsik’s first-time pass finds Mertens running in from the left, Pepe can’t get across in time to prevent the shot, and the Belgian sends it zipping low across goal and in at the far post.
GOAL! Napoli 1-0 Real Madrid (Mertens, 24 mins)
22 mins: Napoli give the ball away and a few seconds later Bale has it, on the edge of the penalty area. But he tries to spin past a defender and into enough space to shoot, fluffs it, ends up near the corner flag and then messes up the cross as well.
19 mins: Real have started to look a little more convincing, and work themselves another shooting chance, Bale brilliantly controlling Casemiro’s long pass and shooting low, hard and down the middle of Reina’s goal.
17 mins: Another sighter for Hamsik, whose 20-yard left-footer skims a couple of yards wide.
15 mins: Koulibaly, Napoli’s weak link so far, gives the ball away on the halfway line and Bale rushes down the wing before picking out Kroos with a lofted pass. The German hits his volley hard and gets the shot on target, but it’s a straightforward save for Reina.
14 mins: Insigne collects the ball 40 yards out, spins and thumps the ball goalwards. Navas dives to his right and tips it wide.
12 mins: Napoli are playing at such a high tempo, pressing high and hard, and attacking fast and free. It’s really very entertaining stuff. Having said that, Real have just had their first attack of note, ending with Bale crossing and Ronaldo and Benzema having a who-can-be-most-offide competition. The Portuguese wins.
8 mins: Napoli win a corner, which was curling goalwards at the near post before Navas tipped it behind. The second corner is cleared but the home side collect the ball, send it forward again and Hamsik shoots a yard wide from 20 yards.
6 mins: Eddie Munro reminds me about the kerfuffle that followed Cuneyt Cakir’s decision to send off Nani during a match between Manchester United and Real Madrid in 2013, after it transpired that though the Turkish official followed only 38 accounts on Twitter, they included Real Madrid’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s. “Pretty sure he refereed some of their games last season too,” he writes. “European football, still as dodgy as ever.”
3 mins: It’s the home side doing the attacking. A low cross from the left runs just in front of the onrushing Hamsik.
3 mins: The atmosphere is furious. There is furious whistling whenever Napoli don’t have possession. It’s all about the first goal surely: if Napoli score it then the noise increases, if Real do they might fall silent.
2 mins: Mertens’ deflected shot loops over the bar. He could have played in Callejón instead, but took the wrong option.
1 min: Napoli have kicked off.
Napoli are going to kick off. Really soon.
The players are out, the anthem has been played and hands have been shaken. Captains are currently tossing.
On BT Sport, Peter Drury is going for it. “Here in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius there is a raging fire in the collective belly,” he says. “This place is ready to erupt.”
The players are in the tunnel. The fans’ five-hour wait for action is nearly over!
Real Madrid have scored in 46 consecutive games. Napoli have kept two clean sheets in the last three months. In that time, Napoli have played out wild scorelines like a 5-3 win over Torino, a 3-3 draw with Fiorentina, and a 7-1 thrashing of Bologna. In short, anything could happen in this one, but it’s unlikely to be dull.
Now this is a queue.
The official team sheet is in, and it looks very much like this:
Already 3-1 down from the first leg, facing a team of superstars, and never having qualified for the quarter-finals, Napoli and their fans have nevertheless approached this game with so much optimism that supporters were queuing to get into the ground six hours before kick-off, and an estimated 10,000 were in their seats with five hours to go. True, Real have lost 18 and won just five of their 31 away games in Italy and have lost eight of their last nine two-legged ties against Italian sides, but they also won the last, against Roma last season, and are Real Madrid. Still, where there’s life there’s hope, and Napoli, after all, only need one goal to be in a position where they only need one goal. Unless Real score, obviously. Anyway, and most importantly, hello!