Benzema guides Madrid past Liverpool to reach CL quarters


Madrid, Mar. 17: Karim Benzema struck for Real Madrid to clinch a 1-0 win over Liverpool and qualification for the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday 6-2 on aggregate.

After the wild last 16 first leg clash at Anfield in February left Madrid sitting pretty with a three-goal advantage, Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp said his side only had a one percent chance of turning the tie around.

They stemmed the bleeding at the Santiago Bernabeu but never looked like mounting a stirring comeback of the type they managed against Barcelona in 2019, or AC Milan in the 2005 final.

Madrid have now knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League in three consecutive seasons, including beating them in last year’s final.

“It was a complicated game but from the start we showed we wanted to go through, and we are in the quarter-finals,” Benzema told Movistar.

“Suffering is part of today’s football. Everyone wants more, but sometimes you have to suffer in a game -- the most important thing is to win and go through.”

The 14-time record winners showed the nous to keep Liverpool at arm’s length, with defenders Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger determined to shut out the visitors, along with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Reigning champions Madrid could have significantly stretched their lead, save for a series of superb stops by Liverpool stopper Alisson Becker and some unusually profligate finishing.

In the first leg, Madrid were lethal, with Vinicius Junior and Benzema netting twice each -- neither were as decisive.

Yet eventually they combined for Madrid’s winner after 78 minutes, with Vinicius slipping as he tried to shoot, but hooking the ball into Benzema’s path for a simple tap-in.

Madrid’s only worry was seeing their captain limp off after his goal amid an injury-hit season -- Benzema said it was only a blow on the shin and Carlo Ancelotti confirmed he would be fit to face Barcelona in the Clasico on Sunday.

“Madrid were in control of the whole game, Ali had to make two sensational saves to keep us in the game,” Klopp told reporters.

“Madrid were outstanding and that’s why the better team went through to the next round.”

Liverpool, deeply inconsistent in this campaign, took heart from their 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United in the Premier League, but could not produce the same magic under the Bernabeu lights.

Osimhen fires Napoli into last eight  Victor Osimhen says Napoli are dreaming of Champions League glory after his brace shot the Serie A leaders to a 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt and into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history on Wednesday.

Nigeria striker Osimhen struck either side of half-time to ensure no slip-ups in Naples and help his team secure a straightforward, and deserved, 5-0 aggregate win.

Piotr Zielinski added Napoli’s third from the penalty spot on a perfect night for southern Italy’s biggest club, who Osimhen believes can go all the way.

“It’s amazing to make history with this win,” said Osimhen to Amazon Prime.

“We will keep on dreaming, we have the squad to do so (win the Champions League). I think we are on the right path. We have a great coach. We will see what the future holds for us, I think we have a good chance.”

Luciano Spalletti’s side are close to securing their first Serie A title in over three decades and an already remarkable season got even better with a place in Friday’s draw for the last eight of Europe’s 

top club competition.

They have been powered to an almost certain domestic triumph and a deep run in Europe by the red-hot Osimhen, who has now netted 23 times in all competitions for possibly the continent’s most exciting team.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia almost scored his second wonder goal in less than a week in the 19th minute after a brilliant tackle from Zielinski sent him charging towards goal.

But he was forced wide just as he looked for a shooting chance and ended up being denied smartly by Kevin Trapp, who did well again two minutes before the break to denied the Georgian.

However Trapp could do nothing to stop Osimhen putting Napoli ahead moments later, the Nigeria international showing why he is one of the most highly-rated strikers in the world with a perfectly timed leap and header from Matteo Politano’s hanging cross.

And Osimhen struck again seven minutes after the break with a simpler finish, this time tapping in Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s low cross after more good play from Politano and Kvaratskhelia.

The excellent Zielinski was brought down by Djibril Sow, allowing the Poland midfielder to dust himself down and calmly slot home a spot-kick in the 64th minute.

All that was left was for the packed Stadio Maradona to shout ‘Ole’ at every pass as they watched their team make history. (AFP)

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