Zidane not taking Napoli clash lightly

Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina makes a futile attempt to prevent Real Madrid's Casemiro from scoring in the Spanish side's 3-1 victory in their Champions League first-leg match in Madrid on Wednesday. Despite the win, Real coach Zinedine Zidane said th
Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina makes a futile attempt to prevent Real Madrid's Casemiro from scoring in the Spanish side's 3-1 victory in their Champions League first-leg match in Madrid on Wednesday. Despite the win, Real coach Zinedine Zidane said the return encounter in Naples on March 7 will be an "open game".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane warned that it was still all to play for in their Champions League last-16 clash against Napoli after the holders strolled to a 3-1 win in the first leg on Wednesday.

Real fell behind to an early goal at the Santiago Bernabeu but then outclassed their opponents with efforts from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and a stunning volley from Brazilian midfielder Casemiro.

Yet Zidane believes Real, eyeing a seventh straight quarter-final appearance, can take nothing for granted when they travel to Naples for the second leg on March 7.

"We played a great game, I don't know if it was the best match we've played recently, but we made a great start," Zidane told reporters.

"It was a shame about the Napoli goal, but we rectified things, scored ourselves and turned the game on its head. I think it was a just result.

"We'll go there to a difficult ground where we'll suffer and it's still an open game. We need to go there and finish it off with our 3-1 advantage."

Real have now won 29 of their last 34 European home games and are unbeaten in their last 12 at the Bernabeu in the competition.

They were caught cold, however, by a fast-attacking Napoli side who are the top scorers in Serie A, when Lorenzo Insigne spotted Madrid 'keeper Keylor Navas out of position to curl home a beautiful finish after eight minutes.

From that moment on, Real were seemingly able to create chances at will, with Benzema heading them level before the break and Kroos and Casemiro scoring in the space of five second-half minutes.

"Our intensity (and our) focus were very high and this is important for us. Against a good opponent with good players on a good run of form you need to be at it," Zidane added.

The Frenchman also gave special praise to Benzema, who has scored just one La Liga goal since October and none in his last six games in all competitions prior to Wednesday's match.

"I am always happy with him," said Zidane.

"He needed that goal which lately he didn't get, but I am happy not only for the goal but also for how he played generally.

"He made the rest of the team play better and his movement is very good. The performances of Karim, Cristiano (Ronaldo), James (Rodriguez), they all made the rest of the team better."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline 'Zidane not taking Napoli clash lightly'. Print Edition | Subscribe