Simply when it seemed like Lionel Messi had nowhere to go, the Argentine nice bamboozled half of Napoli’s group earlier than scoring from an beautiful solo effort that helped Barcelona attain the Champions League quarterfinals in Portugal.
Messi netted Barcelona’s second purpose within the 3-1 victory that despatched the Spanish facet previous Napoli on a 4-2 combination rating on Saturday.
Messi’s purpose within the 23rd minute was arguably the decide of the 31 he has scored this season in all competitions.
Napoli appeared to have him in verify when Messi acquired the ball on their own exterior the suitable nook of the world.
Barcelona’s all-time file scorer, nevertheless, dipped his head and took on the well-placed protection. He saved management of the ball regardless of being knocked over whereas going previous three Napoli gamers. Three extra tried to intervene however Messi discovered the angle to fireplace whereas dropping his steadiness to ship the ball previous the goalkeeper and contained in the far put up.
Clement Lenglet and Luis Suárez additionally scored for Barcelona which superior 5 months after it drew 1-1 in Naples earlier than the pandemic stopped European soccer.
Barcelona will meet Bayern Munich on Friday within the quarterfinals to be performed in Lisbon in a “bubble” format of tight safety to stop a coronavirus outbreak from derailing the competitors’s finale.
Bayern sealed its spot after beating Chelsea 4-1 with two targets from Robert Lewandowski to finish a 7-1 rout over two legs.
“We’re greater than glad with our first half,” Suárez mentioned. “Bayern is a good rival and is without doubt one of the favorites, together with us, of the eight that will likely be in Portugal.”
Messi’s stunning purpose doubled Barcelona’s lead after Lenglet headed in a nook within the 10th. The opener settled Barcelona down after Napoli’s Dries Mertens had given the hosts a scare by hitting the put up shortly after kickoff.
Video evaluate had a busy evening. It disallowed one other Messi purpose for a handball by the ahead after which awarded Messi a penalty after he slipped in entrance of Kalidou Koulibaly and was kicked within the decrease left leg by the defender.
Messi spent a number of minutes receiving medical consideration, and Suárez stepped as much as convert the spot kick. Barcelona coach Quique Setién mentioned that Messi, who performed the entire recreation, had a tough knock however that “I don’t assume he may have an issue.”
Lorenzo Insigne pulled one again for the guests in first-half harm time with a penalty awarded after Ivan Rakitic fouled Mertens.
Gennaro Gattuso’s facet got here out from halftime on the assault, and in want of two targets to undergo.
Barcelona’s protection held up and, as soon as the Rakitic-led midfield bought management of play, Setién had time to present a debut to youth participant Ramón Rodríguez.
“We have now so much to remorse, we disappeared for half an hour and conceded unbelievable targets,” Gattuso mentioned. “I’m upset, I imagine we might have finished higher.”
Barcelona is trying to find its first European Cup since 2015 and solely a Champions League trophy will stop it from ending the season with no title for the primary time since 2014. It misplaced the Spanish league title to Actual Madrid final month and failed to achieve the Copa del Rey ultimate.
The comfy win comes with Setién underneath hearth from followers after Barcelona’s disappointing end within the league, coming second to Madrid. There was hypothesis in Spanish media that his future hinged on beating Napoli.
After champion Liverpool, Madrid, and Juventus all exited within the spherical of 16, Barcelona will imagine it has an excellent higher likelihood to win a sixth title.
“This was the primary ahead step we needed and now I hope that we play the matches forward with the identical angle which we demonstrated right here,” Setién mentioned.
The match at Camp Nou was performed with out spectators. Barcelona and huge areas of northeast Spain are seeing a current spike in instances of COVID-19, however well being officers assured UEFA the sport was secure to play regardless of the issues of Napoli.
A second of silence was held for the victims of the pandemic earlier than kickoff.