Barcelona certified their ticket to UCL quarterfinals with a triumph at times brilliant and at times suffered against a Napoli that started strong. Which could have been sentenced in the first half and ended up locking up Barca in despair. He created little danger despite going home with two shots on wood and a disallowed goal. A header from Lenglet and a huge Messi, who scored one of his great goals in Manolas’s hills and canceled another, could leave the tie resolved at half-time after Suarez’s 3-0 penalty (Leo was limping), but Insigne scored, in the discount and another penalty. A goal that allowed Gattuso’s men to force Barca to end up resisting, with only two changes; one of them from Monchu, debutant, for Griezmann. Bayern waits in Portugal.
Basically, it was about that: reaching to the UCL quarterfinals with options. Barcelona knew it was going to suffer and managed the efforts. In the end, neither Ansu Fati nor Riqui Puig had minutes. Yes, Monchu did. But Barcelona lost possession, ended with a 4-4-2, and experienced a final stretch of the game that had the great merit of not conceding scoring chances.
Barcelona vs Napoli: Match Overview
There were no hidden cards and Setien came out with the planned eleven; with a 4-3-1-2 in which Sergi Roberto acted as a right-handed inside. Occasionally, he stood as a center -back next to Pique, covering Semedo’s rise. De Jong, on the other hand, acted as an inside left-hander close to Rakitic; to help him in the mid-center work. Both were fundamental to give consistency to the Barcelona team in the phases in which Napoli sought to surprise.
For the Neapolitan team, the best actions of danger were manufactured by Insigne, doubt in all the previous days. He had little company, until, in the final stretch, Gattuso played it all out and had ‘Chucky’ Lozano. The Italians had started very strong, but Barcelona’s reaction was overwhelming. A header from Lenglet at the exit of a corner cooled that entry into the game so dangerous for Barca. Napoli had hit the post after two minutes and had completely dominated in the first ten minutes. Needing goals to qualify in UCL quarterfinals; he went out to subdue Setien’s team.
He succeeded, but he did not round off that dominance with a goal and very soon fell apart. In particular, things started to go wrong for him when an incomprehensible pass from Zielinski from the left of the half to the right of his defense was poisoned and ended in a corner. Rakitic took it out and Lenglet finished on goal; with Ospina on the wrong foot and away from where the Barca headed.
The Messi of the big nights
It was a blow for Gattuso’s eleven. The Barca happened to control the party and to play as it is interesting to him. The great Messi emerged then with one of his best goals in the Champions League; which completed a long Barca possession. The action began to be resolved as soon as Luis Suarez looked for his friend. Messi started from the right, surpassed Zielinski and Mario Rui and then Koulibaly and, finally, Manolas. Karma wanted the Greeks to contemplate in the front row Leo’s subtle shot; which placed the ball away from Ospina. Too bad it was without an audience.
And the Leo festival continued. First, with a goal that the VAR invalidated; supposedly by touching the ball with his left arm after controlling a great cross by De Jong with his chest and scoring. As much as they say, no image clarifies if the ball really touched the arm of the ’10’, but Cakir annulled the goal.
And he was on the verge of not conceding a clamorous, very clear penalty from Koulibaly. Who went to clear a ball without noticing that Messi had taken it from him. The kick to the ankle of the Argentine was horrible and left him touched until the end. However, Cakir looked at it and looked back. He whistled a penalty, which Suarez shot. But it tasted so bad that, soon, he did not hesitate to point out one of Rakitic much less clear, which allowed Insigne to prevent Napoli from leaving the break already eliminated. Thus, Napoli returned to the pitch alive and kicking and, as in the first scenes of the play, pressed up, but without creating great chances. Ter Stegen caught a header from Insigne and the Barcelona team was looking for a counter to settle the matter.
That sentence did not arrive and Napoli put all the meat on the grill; while Barca arrived at minute 80 without making changes. The first was Monchu, a rookie, at 84. Milik had just entered the game when he scored, but offside. And Lozano made a shot that Ter Stegen controlled but went to the post. He had to suffer. And, with the debut of Monchu, by Griezmann, Barcelona went to a 4-4-2, tightening lines and resisting against a Napoli that ended as it had started dominating but without scoring. and Barcelona progressed to the UCL quarterfinals.