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Barça got most of the hard work done early in Friday’s Champions League second leg against Napoli. Two early goals put them in the driving seat, and a penalty shortly before half-time left the Serie A side needing three. The Italians did get one of them, but Barça never looked truly troubled and can start making preparations for a trip to Lisbon … and an enticing encounter with in-form Bundesliga side Bayern Munich in the quarter finals.
Napoli knew they had to score at least once and the ball had barely started rolling when Dries Martens banged it into onto Ter Stegen’s woodwork.
But the Italians’ lively start counted for nothing when Clement Lenglet powered his way towards an incoming corner and headed the Catalans into the lead. The perfect start and Lisbon was already looking a lot closer!
And it was looking even closer still when Leo Messi flashed his magic. And what a goal it was! He jiggled his way past three defenders, fell over, got back on his feet, and then jiggled his way past two more before superbly converting.
Barça were on a roll, and seemed to have made it three when Messi collected an absolute peach of an assist from Frenkie de Jong. He took it on his chest but VAR adjudged his arm to have been involved as well and the goal didn’t stand.
Penalties at both ends
And there was more to come in an action packed half when Kalidou Koulibaly, albeit unintentionally, hacked Messi down in the area. Messi was hurt and needed attention, and in the meantime, Luis Suárez converted the spot kick that left Napoli needing three.
It all looked done and dusted before half time, but a penalty committed by Ivan Rakitic and tucked away by Lorenzo Insigne was a reminder that nothing is ever guaranteed in the Champions League. 3-1 at half-time.
Thankfully Messi was able to rejoin the action for a second half that lacked the incessant drama of the first 45 minutes. Barça had a 2-goal cushion and looked to have things under control, although it would have been a far tenser final few minutes had the offside flag not gone up on Arkadiusz Milik’s goal.
Napoli gave it their best shot, but the Barça defence managed to keep trouble at bay and attention can now turn to what promises a cracking game with Bayern Munich on Friday.
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