- Copy link
FC Barcelona were simply tremendous in their first ever experience of the Europa League on Thursday. Against an extremely testing opponent they produced streams of brilliant football and created chance after chance.
And yet all they had to show for it at the end was a single goal from a Ferran Torres penalty and a 1-1 scoreline to take to Naples in seven days’ time (Thursday, 9.00pm CET).
Napoli strike first
This may not have been a Champions League fixture but it certainly felt like one. Despite the early kick-off, the stadium was three quarters full and two quality sides attacked the game with passion.
Barça enjoyed a flurry of early chances. Pedri, Nico, Auba and the eternally omnipresent Adama Traoré were piling the pressure on Napoli, but the Italians are not the stingiest defence in Serie A for nothing.
Ferran Torres had just skied yet another chance when Napoli caught them on the counter. Ter Stegen dealt brilliantly with the first attempt, but Piotr Zielinski was there to slam in the rebound.
Ferran from the spot
Not to discredit Napoli in any way whatsoever, for they were bringing plenty of good football to the game too, but Barça really didn’t look like a side that deserved to be trailing.
But despite their persistence, the home side would not be rewarded with a goal of their own until the hour mark, and it came from the penalty spot. Juan Jesus handled in the area, and Ferran Torres was the man who accepted the responsibility.
Cool as cool can be, the number 19 sent Napoli keeper Alex Menet the wrong way and that was 1-1.
That was enough for Napoli. Rather than risk conceding any further goals, they decided the best thing to do would be to keep things as tight as possible at the back and pick things up instead next Thursday at the Diego Armando Maradona.
Barça had different ideas. There was some fabulous football from the blaugrana although it wouldn’t be until the final minutes that they really started finding the way through on goal.
Torres let two more fine chances go begging, substitute Ousmane Dembélé had the ball right in the danger zone but nobody could connect, Luuk de Jong’s spectacular overhead kick went wide…
Xavi was watching in in absolute despair. Napoli do defend exquisitely, but Barça were getting absolutely everything right and rule of science could explain why not one ball was able to find the net.
In total, Barça had had 21 shots to Napoli’s mere four. Any other day this could have been a win by two or three clear goals. Let’s just hope that other day is February 24 when these sides meet again. Força Barça.
- Copy link