Real Madrid 4-2 Napoli: Bellingham scores again as los Blancos maintain their perfect record

The Santiago Bernebéu is nothing short the most notorious stage in world football. It is rich with footballing history and memories, and the home of arguably the biggest club in the sport. On Wednesday, this legendary arena hosted a match between Real Madrid and Napoli in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, with both sets of fans desperate for all three points. 

Real Madrid, despite having already qualified for the knockout stages, headed into the game knowing that a win would send them through as group winners. They were without star players such as Vinicius Jr and Luka Modric, but the 14-time winners of the competition had not lost any of their last 11 games before Wednesday’s fixture. 

RMA: Lunin; Mendy, Alaba, Rüdiger, Carvajal; Kroos, Valverde; Bellingham, Ceballos; Rodrygo, Diaz

NAP: Meret; Jesus, Natan, Rrahmani, Di Lorenzo; Zielinski, Lobotka, Zambo Anguissa; Kvaratskhelia, Simeone, Politano

The individual quality on show was astounding, and the two sides provided great entertainment from the very beginning. Less than 10 minutes in, the visitors created the first clearcut opportunity of the game, as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia began to cause the Real Madrid defence problems. 

The winger received the ball on the left-hand side and cut inside onto his right foot. He floated a cross to the back post, finding Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who immediately played the ball back into the middle of the box. Giovanni Simeone was waiting there, unmarked, to tap the ball into the net despite Andriy Lunin’s best efforts. 

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A deafening roar erupted from the travelling Napoli supporters, but their elation was immediately suppressed. Straight from the kick-off, Brahim Diaz drove directly at the Napoli defence. He laid the ball to Rodrygo, and after quickly shifting the ball onto his right foot, he fired an effort powerfully into the top corner. Alex Meret was routed to the spot, unable to do anything against a strike of such venom. 

After pegging Napoli back to level the game, it did not take long for Real Madrid to put themselves in the lead. David Alaba had time on the ball in the Napoli half and spotted a surging run from Jude Bellingham. With an inch-perfect cross from deep, Alaba found the English sensation, who scored yet another goal for los Blancos. With 15 goals in his first 16 games for the club, the 20-year-old is defying all expectations, writing himself into Real Madrid legend. His header was accurate and powerful; Real Madrid led 2-1 at halftime. 

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Napoli’s response after the halftime break was exceptional. Only minutes into the second period, Di Lorenzo found Frank Anguissa, who was running in behind the Madrid defence. Initially, he tried to cross the ball into the box, but it was blocked, and the ball fell back in his direction. With his second attempt, he blasted an impressive volley past a helpless Lunin to level the game at 2-2. 

From this point on, Real Madrid dominated every aspect of the game. They were patient but effective in attack, and they created a plethora of chances. Joselu was at the receiving end of the clearest opportunities, but the Spaniard failed to convert. His first chance came from a well-weighted Ferland Mendy cross, where the ball rebounded off his knee over the bar from only a yard out. An attempted overhead kick and a missed header followed, but his lack of confidence was evident. 

Thankfully for the struggling forward, a moment of excellence from the youngster Nico Paz regained Real Madrid’s lead. The Argentinian midfielder cleverly turned past his man in the middle of the park and began driving at the Napoli defence. He moved the ball onto his favoured left foot and shot from 20 yards out. After dipping and bouncing just in front of Meret, the ball burst through the goalkeeper’s gloves and into the net.  

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Using all of their experience and quality, Real Madrid shut out their opponents and capitalised on the desperation of the Napoli players. Bellingham was at the heart of everything good that Madrid produced, and the midfielder had one more moment of class in him. He beat his man on the left side of the Napoli box before squaring the ball to Joselu. Despite his previous struggles, the striker converted from six yards out to seal the victory for the hosts. 

The win prolonged Real Madrid’s perfect record in the group while also confirming that they will enter the knockouts as group winners. Napoli are still in pole position to advance into the next round, but the Italian side still requires a point to do so.