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
"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."