Champions League: Three talking points from Napoli 1-1 Barcelona

Barcelona let Napoli off the hook

Barcelona really let Napoli off the hook on Wednesday night with a 1-1 draw that leaves the tie very much in the balance after the first leg in Italy.

Xavi’s side were the better team for long periods of the game and fully deserved to go 1-0 up when Robert Lewandowski made their dominance count.

For once, Barcelona had actually started the game strongly and didn’t give the hosts a sniff in the first half of the match at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

The only question seemed to be whether Barca could get that vital goal. Lamine Yamal, Ilkay Gundogan and Robert Lewandowski all had chances in the first half but couldn’t convert.

It looked like being a similar story after the break, until Lewandowski grabbed just his second Champions League goal of the season.

The strike looked like being the difference between the teams, until Victor Osimhen took advantage of a poor moment from Inigo Martinez and slotted home to make it 1-1.

Osimhen’s goal changed everything and means the tie is really up for grabs.

Barca have home advantage next time out but have been better on their travels this season, while new Napoli boss Francesco Calzona now has a few weeks to work his players before the return.

Is Lewandowski really back?

Lewandowski got lucky last time out against Celta Vigo but was on target yet again on Wednesday night with a fine low strike that beat Alex Meret in the Napoli goal.

Rather amazingly, Lewandowki’s goal was Barcelona’s first in the Champions League knockout stages since Lionel Messi scored against PSG all the way back in 2021.

There’s been plenty of debate about Lewandowski all season but he certainly seems to be in very strong goalscoring form right now.

Barcelona’s Poland international has now scored five goals in his last four games and nine since the turn of the year. Signs of life indeed from the veteran striker.

There are still doubts about the rest of his game, but Lewandowski’s job first and foremost is to provide goals and he’s certainly doing that right now.

Osimhen makes Barcelona pay

Barcelona’s defense has been a big problem this season but looked rock solid against Napoli for the majority of the 90 minutes.

Napoli did possess plenty of threat on the night, with Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia both starting, but struggled to create any real moments of danger.

Yet that always seemed likely to change, particularly with the hosts chasing an equaliser, and it was no surprise to see Osimhen get his name on the scoresheet.

The disappointment will be that Osimhen scored with his only chance on goal. And the really disappointing thing is that Inigo Martinez will know he should have done much better.

Xavi brought the veteran back into the starting XI at the expense of Pau Cubarsi but saw the defender go to ground far too easily after being brushed off by Osimhen. The Nigeria striker then showed just how dangerous he can be by keeping his composure to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Osimhen has now scored nine Champions League goals in 16 games and will obviously be a major threat again in the return leg.

Barca have been warned already and will know they can’t afford to switch off again in the return leg if they are to make it through to the quarter-finals.

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