SSC Napoli v FC Barcelona: First defeat of preseason (1-0)
Despite posing very little threat in tonight’s friendly in Geneva, Napoli edged it thanks to a Dzemaili strike after 80 minutes
ANNA SEGURA (SPECIAL ENVOY)
Despite the result, tonight was a great test for Luis Enrique’s side against Napoli in Geneva. Claudio Bravo made his Barça debut against the club that finished third in Serie A last year, and although the Italians took the win thanks to the only goal of the night, the Catalans played strong and confident football despite the absence of some of their biggest stars.
Managed by Rafa Benítez and with familiar faces like Callejón and Albiol in the side, Napoli didn’t disappoint. They got the first chance of the night, which Claudio Bravo kept out with a spectacular diving save. Soon after, Andrés Iniesta got FCB’s first decent shot in, but it did little to trouble rival keeper Rafael Cabral. And then came a wonderful through ball from Rakitic to Munir, but the Napoli stopper once again did well.
The Stade de Geneve was by no means packed but there were plenty of Barça and Napoli fans to generate an atmosphere. And although the game was certainly no thriller, the quality of the football was unquestionably good.
Surpassingly for a preseason game, Luis Enrique made no changes at half-time. Pedro came to life with two successive chances, while Rafinha was another of Barça’s most prominent players, active in attack and coming frustratingly close to scoring. With half an hour to go, the FCB manager started making wholesale changes to his eleven, with Edgar Ié, Samper, Sandro, Sergi Robert, Grimaldo and Halilovic all coming on for Piqué, Sergio, Munir, Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Rakitic.
It was practically Barça B out there, but although they were still commanding the possession, the Catalans produced very little serious threat to Rafael Cabral. Bagnack, Adama and Deulofeu were all sent on for the last quarter of an hour, replacing Bartra, Rafinha and Pedro. But it all went wrong in the 80th minute when a long-range strike from Dzemaili slipped through the hands of Claudio Bravo and into the net. Barça did their best to make amends, but there was to be no more score, and it all ended 1-0 to Napoli. The team will now return to Barcelona to prepare for Saturday’s trip to Helsinki.