Barcelona and Napoli will head to Italy all square after a pulsating UEFA Europa League knockout round play-off first leg.
29′: Zieliński fires Napoli into the lead
59′: Ferran Torres penalty brings hosts level
Match in brief: Barça fail to take chances
Barcelona were sprightly early on but lacked a cutting edge, with Ferran Torres spurning their best chance of the opening half. Napoli took full advantage moments later, Eljif Elmas’ smart turn and pass enabling Piotr Zieliński to drill in at the second attempt after Marc-André ter Stegen had kept out his initial effort.
Xavi Hernández’s calming words at half-time had the desired effect and the home side always looked the more likely to win after Ferran Torres rolled in a penalty following Juan Jesus’ handball. The closing stages were a siege as Luciano Spalletti’s side hung on, Ferran Torres missing the target with two more presentable openings and substitute Luuk De Jong so close with an overhead kick.
Graham Hunter, Barcelona reporter
This was interesting. Though Barcelona will view it as imperative to go through, it’s also true that, right now, their quickly assembled and youthful squad is learning. And there was good tuition here. Napoli often resembled ‘old Barça’. Quick and clever. So, to be in the tie, thus far, isn’t a small achievement. There was more learning too. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé still ‘click’ and Barcelona are hugely better with Gavi in their XI.
Vieri Capretta, Napoli reporter
An exciting game of football, with Napoli making the most of their best moments and only big chance while resisting at the back. Spalletti’s plan worked well for about an hour, but then the visitors struggled to fight back against a Barcelona side willing to pour forward. All’s well that ends well. A draw at the Camp Nou is a solid result going into the return leg at the Stadio Maradona.
Nico González, Barcelona midfielder: “When we go to Naples, the fact is that we need to dominate like we did here. We need to be the better team again and we need to take our chances.”
Xavi Hernández, Barcelona coach: “One goal wasn’t enough for the football we produced. We needed to be more effective. Now we must go to Napoli and win, basically by playing the same type of match but scoring when we get the chance.”
Piotr Zieliński, Napoli midfielder: “It’s amazing to score at the Camp Nou, but we’ll need to do better in the second leg. It’s a good result, but we needed to do better in the second half. The return match will be different.”
Luciano Spalletti, Napoli coach: “We sat too deep in the second half and we must improve. In the first half, we showed that we can play on a par with Barcelona.”
Dario Marcolin, DAZN
“A great performance by Napoli, with a super first half, but it’s a pity they couldn’t hold onto the advantage and win the game.”
• Barcelona have lost only three of their last 28 home matches against Italian clubs in UEFA club competition (W19 D6).
• The Catalan club have not scored more than one goal in any of their last ten UEFA club competition matches.
• Napoli have lost only three of their last 14 Europa League matches (W7 D4).
• The visitors have only failed to score in one of their last 14 Europa League matches.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza (Dest 81), Piqué, Eric García, Alba; Nico González (Gavi 65), F. De Jong (Busquets 65), Pedri; Traoré (Dembélé 65), Aubameyang (L. De Jong 86), Ferran Torres
Napoli: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Juan Jesus; Zambo Anguissa (Malcuit 84), Fabián Ruiz; Elmas (Mário Rui 84), Zieliński (Demme 80), Insigne (Ounas 72); Osimhen (Mertens 80)
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