Real Madrid shook off a first-half scare to win at Napoli and reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the seventh season in a row courtesy of strikes from Sergio Ramos and Álvaro Morata, either side of an own goal from Dries Mertens, who had revived Napoli's hopes with the opening goal of the evening.
Napoli may have been 3-1 down from the first leg, but they were eager to get back into this round of 16 tie as quickly as possible, with Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamšík all getting in early shots. Insigne was the first to draw Keylor Navas into action, before Hamšík dragged his attempt just wide.
Hamšík was instrumental in the opening goal midway through the first period, his pass setting Mertens away down the left; the Belgian drilled his finish across Navas and inside the far post. Madrid had shown little going forward but were almost level within five minutes as Cristiano Ronaldo skipped round Pepe Reina, only to fire against the base of the post.
Napoli, however, were doing the bulk of the attacking, and Mertens again threatened before the break after José Callejón and Allan had forced the ball through to him; this time the woodwork came to Madrid's rescue.
Madrid re-emerged for the second period with renewed intent, Karim Benzema flashing an effort narrowly wide of the near post, before two Madrid corners totally changed the tie.
Ramos had not scored in the UEFA Champions League since last season's final, yet rose at the near post to head in Toni Kroos's delivery from the left. Six minutes later, the Madrid captain met a right-wing delivery from the German, with a deflection off Mertens helping the ball past Reina.
The visitors were suddenly cruising, and added late gloss in the final moments, Morata tapping in after Reina had parried a Ronaldo attempt.
Key player: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
He may be a centre-back by trade, but something about this competition brings out the predator in Ramos. With the Merengues under the cosh and in need of a hero, their skipper twice soared above the Napoli defence to help turn the game on its head – once more proving the man for the big occasion.
The future's bright
Despite being unable to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, Napoli can be confident about the future. "Our biggest hope is that this kind of game will become an habit for Napoli," coach Maurizio Sarri had said pre-match. His side showed they belong at this level with a wonderful first-half display. The foundations of a truly successful outfit appear to be there – and they're not the first team to be punished by Ramos and company.
Napoli's profligacy punished
Madrid were on the ropes going into half-time, their midfield under pressure and their defence too easily split. Crucially, though, they trailed only 1-0 and the Merengues were able to regroup at the break. They then made the hosts pay for their profligacy with those two visiting goals in six minutes sealing the champions' spot in the quarter-finals.
Álvaro Morata wheels away after making it 1-3
Paolo Menicucci, Napoli reporter (@UEFAcomPaoloM)
Napoli needed the perfect game to knock Madrid out. They flirted with perfection in the first half when they took a well-deserved lead and went close to a second. Madrid, however, have too many strings to their bow and Ramos's ability to rescue his team-mates when needed most is certainly one of those. Napoli leave the competition with pride after allowing their passionate fans to dream, even if only for 45 minutes.
Joe Walker, Madrid reporter (@UEFAcomJoeW)
Madrid knew what was coming their way and they got all that and more. Napoli, spurred on by their raucous fans, were initially dominant. Fortunately, they weathered the storm and rode it out. The half-time whistle came at just the right time for the Blancos, and ultimately they were able to get themselves out of a sticky situation with aplomb.