Real Madrid best 10-man Chelsea; AC Milan stymie Napoli
Sports Desk, Apr 12 (EFE).- Real Madrid cruised 2-0 Wednesday against Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal and AC Milan held high-flying Napoli 1-0 on a match day that saw both of the losing sides go down to 10 men.
The Blancos head to the second leg favored to continue their pursuit of a record-extending 15th European crown, while the Rossoneri face the prospect of a difficult night in Naples to remain in the hunt for their first Champions League title since 2007.
Hosting the Londoners at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Blancos dominated possession and chances even before Ben Chilwell was ejected for a foolish foul at the hour mark.
Chelsea made a promising start, bursting into the Real Madrid area in the 2nd minute, but former Atletico Madrid man Joao Felix’s shot caused no problem for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The initiative quickly passed to the hosts and they went ahead in the 21st minute thanks to 2022 Ballon d’Or Karim Benzema, who nudged the ball across the line after Blues keeper Kepa made the initial save against Vinicius.
Chelsea responded and Raheem Sterling forced a good save from Courtois two minutes after the opening goal, though from that point until the break, all of the action was at the other end.
Courtois denied Felix again in the 48th minute before Luka Modric fired over the cross-bar with a chance to double the lead.
The difference was still just one goal when Chilwell made the mistake of tugging back the onrushing Rodrygo on the edge of the area, earning a straight red card that means he won’t be available to Frank Lampard for next week’s second leg.
Kepa did well to deny David Alaba on the resulting free kick and the Blues remained in the match until the 74th minute, when late sub Marco Asensio scored on practically his first touch.
Real Madrid had chances to extend their advantage, but a combination of poor finishing and the efforts of Kepa and the Chelsea back line kept the margin to two goals.
Ten days after stunning the runaway Serie A leaders 4-0 at Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples, Milan welcomed Napoli to the San Siro with the clear intent to focus on defending.
Napoli showed no signs of a hangover from the previous defeat and nearly grabbed the lead in the 1st minute, with goalkeeper Mike Maignan beaten, Kvicha Kvaratskhelia took aim on the net only to see defender Rade Kranic stop the ball on the line.
Piotr Zielinski tested Maignan in the 12th minute and Napoli would end the game with six shots on target to two for the hosts, but with five minutes left in the first half, Brahim Diaz stormed down the pitch on the counter and got the ball to Ismael Bennacer, who put the Rossoneri up 1-0 with his first Champions League goal.
Simon Kjaer nearly made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time with a header that bounced off the woodwork.
The pace slowed in the second half and the game turned into a battle for midfield that favored Milan due to the speed and dynamism of Theo Hernandez.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa fouled Hernandez twice in less than five minutes and was sent off in the 74th.
Napoli kept pushing for the equalizer and Giovanni Di Lorenzo tested Maignan in the 87th minute, but Milan kept the visitors at bay. EFE rmm-tfc/dr