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Real Madrid will suffer vs. 'dangerous' Napoli at San Paolo - Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said that Napoli remained "dangerous" and his team would "suffer" in the return game despite their 3-1 victory over Napoli in Wednesday's Champions League round-of-16 first leg at the Bernabeu.

On just eight minutes Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne shocked the home fans and goalkeeper Keylor Navas with a superb 35-yard strike, but Karim Benzema soon equalised as Madrid dominated the proceedings at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

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Two fine long-range strikes from midfielders Toni Kroos and Casemiro within five minutes of each other early in the second half put the defending champions in control of the tie ahead of the second leg at the San Paolo on Tuesday, March 7.

The Los Blancos coach told his postmatch news conference that he was not counting any chickens yet, especially as Napoli had scored a valuable away goal.

"We still have to go there and play another game," Zidane said. "It will be difficult, we will have to suffer there, as the tie is not over yet. It will be 50-50 again. I would have liked a clean sheet, but it is a good result. They can be dangerous in any moment. But we have our own weapons and can hurt them too."

Zidane accepted that his team had played one of their best games of the season so far, and he was particularly happy with how they had reacted to Insigne's early strike.

Karim Benzema's equaliser got Real Madrid off and running against Napoli.
Zinedine Zidane was pleased to see Karim Benzema score in Real Madrid's 3-1 defeat of Napoli.

"We played a great game, I don't know if our best, but above all a great start," he said. "Their goal was a pity, but we rectified it quickly and were back in the game. I am happy with the result, which is logical. We put in a lot of intensity, concentration, which was important as always, against a good opponent, with good players and in good form."

Benzema came into the game having not scored in six outings, and was whistled following two early misses, but responded by heading in what was his 51st goal in the competition.

"[Benzema] needed this goal, as in the last games he had not scored," Zidane said. "I am happy for that, for the character he showed, but for what he does on the pitch in general. He makes others around him play better, his movement is very good. There will always be criticism. We ask him to score, as a centre-forward, and he could have had another two."

Cristiano Ronaldo provided an excellent assist for Kroos' strike, while James Rodriguez did well after being surprisingly named in the starting XI.

"Cristiano also played a great game, as did James who also makes other players play better," Zidane said. "He gave us a lot of calm in possession, above all in the first half. And his crosses were very good. I am happy with his game. And with all of them."

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan


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