9th August, 2020
Barcelona once again reminded soccer followers why they used to be known as a dreaded football team as they bashed and demolished a usually strongly defensive Napoli team at an empty Nou Camp stadium by 3 solid goals to one miserable goal. It was a night to remember for the Catalonian fans as Lionel Messi once again showed why he is the real GOAT in modern football. This guy needs to be cloned for Barcelona’s future!
A very lethargic first-half performance from the Argentine guided Barcelona into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory over Napoli in their last-16 second leg on Saturday night at the Camp Nou.
It was Clement Lenglet that opened the scoring o the night, followed by a sensational strike from “Magical” Messi himself followed by a late first-half penalty from Luis Suarez, before Lorenzo Insigne scored the consolatory lone goal for the visitors from the penalty spot.
The final result from both legs show that Barcelona claimed a 4-2 victory on aggregate and will now head to Lisbon to take on Bayern Munich in a winner-take-all quarter-final.
The victory was largely down to a superb first 45 minutes from the “Captain Fabulous Messi”, who was in full Champions League mode until the end of the first half when he sustained a hard knock from a visibly angry Kalidou Koulibaly.
However, the second half from the Catalans will do little to quell the doubts surrounding Quique Setien and his ability to lead Barcelona back to their first Champions League final since 2015.
With a slew of players missing due to suspension or injury, Setien opted for as strong a starting XI as possible, meaning Nelson Semedo lined up at right-back and Sergi Roberto was pushed forward into midfield with Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitic. Meanwhile, up front, it was the heralded trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann.
One wonders what would have happened if the teenage sensation Ansu Fati had been thrown into the fray in the second half!
Barcelona was tested very early as Napoli struck the post before two minutes had even elapsed when Insigne mishit a shot with his shin and onto the Catalonian woodwork.
While the early minutes were bright for Napoli, Barcelona landed a very big blow and in an unusual way for them.
A corner kick was curled in by Rakitic and Lenglet met it perfectly, smacking a header into net for a 1-0 lead. There was some question as to whether the French centre-back had pushed Napoli’s Diego Demme to the ground on the play, but VAR saw no reason to overturn the call and the goal stood.
That goal was a big lift for Barcelona and the beginning of a superb display of soccer artistry and wizardry from a soccer magician who goes by the name “Magical Messi” who delivered the second goal in spectacular fashion midway through that memorable first half.
The Argentine collected a pass from Suarez and somehow found his way through three Napoli players who simply remained dazed from his footballing artistry.
With a sea of Napoli legs all around and Messi on the ground, he managed to spring to his feet and latch onto the ball with that magical left foot of his to fire a shot that split a pair of defenders and whistled past Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina for a 2-0 Barcelona lead.
Left to me, that foot should be insured for a zillion dollars for life! Haba!
Thereafter, Barcelona was simply all over the place and “Magical Messi thought he had scored his second goal of the game but VAR this time overturned the Barcelona goal, ruling that the No.10 had handled the ball to control a cross from De Jong.
Barca however received a massive scare shortly before half-time when the swinging foot of Koulibaly struck Messi on the ankle as Messi was trying to dispossess the Napoli defender from behind in the area.
As the two players went down in serious pain, there was also the matter of a potential foul and penalty. After a long wait, VAR and referee Cuneyt Cakir ruled that it was a penalty, and with Messi hobbling and trying to shake off the knock, Suarez handled spot-kick duties and converted to increase the lead to 3-0.
Barcelona was looking like they were going to crush Napoli in the game only for a late penalty to be called in favour of Napoli for a Rakitic foul on Dries Mertens in the area, and Insigne beat goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make it 3-1 and give Napoli some hope.
The final minutes of the first half saw Messi’s mobility limited, but the half-time break apparently came at the right time, as Messi re-emerged from the dressing room ready to play the second half.
Napoli had the better of things to start the second half, but they were unable to find a way past Ter Stegen. Barcelona’s possession game slowly bled the clock, leaving Napoli to hope for something to happen on the counterattack.
Napoli had exhausted all five changes by the time Setien made his first substitution, with youngster Monchu receiving his first-team debut in place of Griezmann.
Even with the two-goal cushion, the final minutes would prove nervy for Barcelona, as Napoli committed numbers forward and Chucky Lozano came close on a pair of headers, the second one striking the post.
In the end, Barcelona did enough to seal the win and continue their pursuit of a sixth European crown. The Barcelona versus Napoli game was not the only game of the evening as Bayern Munich also progressed to the next stage of the competition.
Barcelona and Bayern Munich secured their place in the last eight of the Champions League after beating Napoli and Chelsea respectively on Saturday night.
From the quarter-final stage onward, all of the games will take place in Lisbon, Portugal.
There, the eight teams will fight from August 12 to August 23 in a single-match format to try and secure the famous trophy.
Barcelona will take on Bayern on Friday, August 14, while the other quarter-final on their side of the draw will see Manchester City face Lyon on Saturday, August 15.
The other side of the draw pits Atalanta against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, August 12, and RB Leipzig against Atletico Madrid on Thursday, August 13.
For the eight teams in Lisbon, if they win their next three games, they will be Champions League winners.