Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli: Casemiro volley helps Real earn first-leg lead
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 16/02/17 9:06am
Casemiro's stunning volley helped Real Madrid earn a 3-1 first-leg advantage from their Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli.
Lorenzo Insigne's opportunistic strike put the Italians ahead after eight minutes at the Bernabeu but Karim Benzema levelled 10 minutes later.
Two goals in five second-half minutes after half-time put Real in control, with Toni Kroos edging the hosts in front before Casemiro's remarkable 30-yard strike.
The result ends Napoli's 18-match unbeaten run but Insigne's away goal ensures they return to Naples for the return leg on March 7 with hope of advancing to the quarter-finals.
Zinedine Zidane handed James Rodriguez his first start for more than a month in one of three changes from Real's 3-1 win over Osasuna.
They had the chance to take the lead inside the first minute too, but Pepe Reina smartly saved from Benzema's snap-shot.
It set the tone for an absorbing first half as Napoli sat back and looked to pick off their illustrious opponents at every opportunity.
The gameplan worked to perfection at the first time of asking when Insigne caught out goalkeeper Keylor Navas with a brilliant early strike from Marek Hamsik's through ball.
Real's response was swift, with Dani Carvajal's pinpoint cross putting the ball on a plate for Benzema to nod in his 51st Champions League goal, sending him clear of Thierry Henry as the competition's highest-scoring Frenchman.
The hosts went on to dominate the rest of the half, squandering three big chances to take the lead before the break.
Cristiano Ronaldo blazed over from 12 yards and Benzema clipped wide when one-on-one with Reina, while Raphael Varane failed to make proper contact with a free header.
Napoli failed to heed those warnings and were punished by two quick-fire goals after the interval.
Ronaldo, who endured a frustrating night in front of goal, turned provider for Kroos to calmly side-foot past Reina from the edge of the box.
And with the visitors stunned, Real pressed home their advantage, adding a third through Casemiro on 54 minutes.
The defensive midfielder lit up the Bernabeu with one of the goals of the tournament, giving former Liverpool 'keeper Reina no chance with a dipping volley from distance.
Dries Mertens entered the match with 14 goals from his last 12 appearances but the in-form attacker wasted a golden opportunity to get Napoli back in the game with 22 minutes to play, firing over from Jose Callejon's neat lay-off.
Real had chances to add a fourth through Marcelo and James, while former Real Madrid forward Callejon was denied a goal on his Bernabeu return.
The Napoli man turned past Navas from close range but was correctly flagged offside, preserving a two-goal buffer for Real that could prove crucial come March 7.