Champions League

Sarri looks at positives despite Madrid defeat

2017-03-08 14:25
Dries Mertens (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri took a lot of positives from his side's 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in their Champions League last-16 second leg clash at the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday night.

Dries Mertens had opened the scoring for the hosts in the 24th minute, but a stronger second-half performance from Real saw Sergio Ramos equalise with 51 minutes played, ahead of a Mertens own-goal six minutes later, and an Alvaro Morata effort in stoppage time at the end of the match.

The Spanish giants progressed to the quarter-finals with a 6-2 aggregate, and despite the significant gulf between the two sides, Sarri felt his team were dominant for large chunks of the match.

He told Mediaset Premium: "We get the feeling we are not that far off [the top clubs]. 

"We dominated the best team in the world for 55 minutes. If we can grow, become more physical, then we can become competitive at this level too.

"It's a young squad, it has a bright future ahead of it. That final step is the hardest, but I get the feeling we can do it.

"Real Madrid are a very strong side; you need a lot of luck to keep the tie open and a bit of luck on the post to put us 2-0 up would have given us more fuel."

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik added: "We leave the Champions League with heads held high. In the first half we proved that we can play it out with one of the best teams in the world.

"It's a shame that we conceded the goals on set plays. We can fight it out with the biggest clubs and that is a starting point.

"Now we must concentrate on Serie A and the Coppa Italia, which are two objectives. From tomorrow [Wednesday] we will think about Crotone.

"One thing is for sure - we need to improve on corners."

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