Alex Meret’s unfortunate own goal handed Real Madrid a 3-2 win at Napoli on Wednesday which moved the Spanish giants top in Champions League Group C.
Italian international goalkeeper Meret could do nothing to stop Federico Valverde’s powerful, deflected shot crashing out off the bar and back into the goal off his outstretched arm 12 minutes from the end of an entertaining clash in Naples.
That unlucky rebound maintained Madrid’s perfect start to the group stage and moved them three points clear of both the Italian champions and Braga, 3-2 winners over bottom side Union Berlin earlier on Tuesday.
“It was a difficult match, very hard-fought right until the last minute,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti to Sky Sport in Italy.
“It seems absurd to me that that goal is given as a Meret own goal… Valverde is a great player and a great midfielder, he creates a lot and that was a great strike.”
Vinicius Junior and Jude Bellingham scored the away side’s other goals on former Napoli coach Ancelotti’s return to southern Italy, giving Madrid a halftime lead after Leo Ostigard headed the hosts in front in the 19th minute.
England midfielder Bellingham, who also set up Vinicius’ smart low finish, has now scored eight times in his first nine Madrid matches in all competitions and looked a class above most of the other players on the pitch.
“What’s so amazing about Bellingham is that he’s only 20. He has great quality, a strong personality and character,” added Ancelotti.
“He’s a young man of 20 who’s showing everyone what extraordinary talent he has.”
Piotr Zielinski had given Napoli hope that they could build on a recent burst of good form when he smashed in a 54th-minute penalty harshly given for a Nacho handball while challenging Victor Osimhen.
Nigeria forward Osimhen was playing for Napoli after backing supporters following a row with the club over an insulting video on social media, telling his countrymen that they were not racist.
Tuesday’s match took place in a city shaken by a series of earthquakes in recent days and the Stadio Maradona rocked as the two teams went straight at it from kick-off.
Madrid were more dangerous in the opening exchanges, Rodrygo and Bellingham having respective efforts stopped by Meret and Mathias Olivera in the first 11 minutes.
But shortly afterwards Ostigard struck first blood for Napoli, powering in a header after Kepa Arrizabalaga flapped at Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s cross and Natan looped an effort of his own off the crossbar.
Napoli had their tails up but a sloppy pass from captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo allowed Bellingham to pounce and help bring Real level in the 27th minute.
Bellingham nipped in to intercept Di Lorenzo’s ball into midfield from the right flank and only had to make a couple of steps before feeding Vinicius who calmly slotted home his first goal since mid-August.
And Bellingham silenced the previously boisterous crowd seven minutes later with a touch of pure class, collecting a pass in midfield before bursting forward, brushing off Ostigard and thumping home.
Kepa made up for his error for Napoli’s goal six minutes before the break when he pulled off a super stop to deny Osimhen’s bullet header from Matteo Politano’s whipped cross.
Napoli were not downhearted and were rewarded for their enterprising play when referee Clement Turpin decided after checking the pitch-side monitor that Nacho had handled while challenging Osimhen.
Ancelotti was dumbfounded while Zielinski crashed his penalty past Kepa and in off the post, and not long after the Pole stung the Madrid keeper’s gloves with a powerful drive from just outside the area.
The introduction of Luka Modric helped turn the match in Madrid’s favour, and Bellingham should have put them back in the lead when he headed wide after Vinicius’ stinging shot was well saved by Meret.
But Meret could only look on in horror as Valverde was bundled by his teammates in celebration following a goal which gave Madrid the initiative in what looks to be a tight group.