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AFP
August 10, 2020

Barca hold off Napoli to secure last eight showdown with Bayern

Sports

AFP
August 10, 2020

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi scored a brilliant solo goal as Barcelona battled past Napoli on Saturday to book a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich.

Messi’s weaving run and finish came between an early Clement Lenglet header and a Luis Suarez penalty, won by Messi, as Barca stormed to a 3-0 lead in the first half at Camp Nou.

Lorenzo Insigne gave Napoli hope just before the interval with his own spot-kick but despite a nervy second period, Barcelona held on to win 3-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate.

After finishing five points behind Real Madrid in La Liga, Barca resumed in the Champions League with doubts hanging over the form of the team and the future of their coach.

Quique Setien said on Friday he had not considered resigning but failure in Europe, after a turbulent domestic campaign, would likely take the decision out of his hands.

Victory against Napoli eases the pressure but a disjointed second half will not inspire confidence, even with Messi seemingly rejuvenated after three weeks rest.

Napoli, whose own league season only finished last weekend, should have had the advantage of rhythm but a disastrous first half left them with too much to do.

Their central defender Kalidou Koulibaly, linked with a move to several elite European clubs this summer, endured a particularly disappointing night.

Napoli began an eventful first half by hitting the post as Dries Mertens went close with a miskicked half-volley, only for Lenglet to head in for Barca from Ivan Rakitic’s corner after nine minutes.

Messi made it two after a barnstorming run in which he fell to the ground only to dart back up and bundle his way through three Napoli defenders before curling into the far corner.

He thought he had another after finishing off a delightful pass from the outside of Frenkie de Jong’s right foot but it was ruled out, the ball feathering Messi’s arm as he controlled it.

But he could not be supressed for long, harrying the unsuspecting Koulibaly in the penalty area and poking the ball away from his opponent, who was already swinging to clear and succeeded only in bringing Messi down.Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski bagged his Champions League-leading 12th and 13th goals this season for Bayern Munich in their 4-1 home win over Chelsea.

Leading 3-0 from the first leg at Stamford Bridge in February before the coronavirus pandemic halted the competition, treble-chasing Bayern underlined their dominance to progress 7-1 on aggregate.

Lewandowski netted a penalty with just 10 minutes gone at the Allianz Arena. Winger Ivan Perisic then doubled Bayern’s lead before England striker Tammy Abraham tapped home a loose ball to give Chelsea brief hope.However, replacement midfielder Corentin Tolisso put the result beyond doubt when he fired home a Lewandowski pass with 14 minutes to go.

This was a world-class display from Lewandowski who played a hand in all four goals, adding a late header to his pair of assists.After a ruthless display in the first leg, Bayern picked up where they left off six months ago.

They took the lead when Serge Gnabry, who scored twice in London, spotted the run into the box of Lewandowski, who was tripped by Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero.

The Poland striker was initially flagged offside, but VAR ruled otherwise. Caballero was booked and Lewandowski converted the resulting penalty for his 12th goal in seven Champions League games.

He turned provider on 24 minutes as Bayern kept up the pressure.After Mateo Kovacic lost possession near the halfway line, the ball was worked to Lewandowski who squared for Perisic to fire home.

Former Bayern target Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was linked with a move to Munich at the start of the season, beat Manuel Neuer on 28 minutes only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR for an offside.