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FC Barcelona made a magnificent impression in their Europa League debut on Thursday against Napoli. Their deep pressure caused all kinds of trouble for Napoli’s tight defence, and there were more than enough chances to take a sizeable lead to Italy next week. But lack of accuracy in front of goal means instead the teams will be starting the game with one goal each
All out attack
Barça certainly can’t be accused of not giving this everything they have. Especially in the second half, it was one-way traffic.
Napoli only had four shots in the whole game, while Barça struck 21 times, 14 of those from inside the area. But what the Catalans were missing was accuracy. Just five of their attempts were on target.
Barça dominated the possession, commanded the play and had the ball in the opposition’s half for almost all the meaningful time. They made an immense 744 passes, and 501 of those were in the Napoli half. The Italians, in stark contrast, only made 376 passes, and just 114 in the Barça half.
The raiding of balls in the opposition’s half was other factor. Barça did so 24 times, leaving Napoli to base their game plan almost entirely on tight defending and trying to snatch anything they could on counter attacks.
Bombarding the area
As had often been the case in recent games, if the goal hadn’t come by the traditional Barça route, the team has not been afraid to thump crosses into the area. They did that 24 times against Napoli, and it produced chances, but frustratingly none of them ended with the ball in the net.
Ferran Torres had an especially active game, and it was he who scored the only Barça goal. That one came from the penalty spot, his first penalty goal for 146 games, but he also had chances from open play. After the final whistle, he was visibly upset not to have scored from any of them, but you have to be in it to win it, and there will be other days when he has better fortune.
His nine shots today were actually the joint second-highest for any Barça player in European competition other than Leo Messi since records started. Luis Suárez also had nine attempts against Inter Milan in 2018.
And his goal also makes him the 50th player to score on his European debut for FC Barcelona.
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