Barcelona kept their Champions League dreams alive Saturday at the Camp Nou as they defeated Napoli in their round of 16 second leg to advance to the quarterfinals. A trio of first-half goals gave the La Liga side a 3-1 win over their opponent, providing a 4-2 aggregate win that saw Barcelona through to the final eight.
Lionel Messi,, in the first half to help build an early 3-1 halftime advantage against their Serie A opposition. Luis Suarez and Clement Lenglet also contributed to the lead with goals of their own, while all Napoli was able to respond with was a penalty from Lorenzo Insigne. The halftime score held for the final 45, ensuring Barcelona's date with Bayern Munich on Friday.
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How would an early Mertens goal have changed things?
A mere 120 seconds into this second leg of the tie, Dries Mertens had a chance at goal when a deflected cross found its way to his feet inside the box. The ball seemed to catch him by surprise, and his shot went high into the top corner of the side netting. Had he had just a bit more concentration, something he certainly has within him, he could have put the ball right past Ter Stegen and put Napoli in the driver's seat. Would it have necessarily stopped the offense Barcelona showed it was capable of producing later in the game? No. But it would have but the pressure back on the side of a La Liga squad that has a recent history of blowing Champions League ties -- the kind of position you want to be in if you're an underdog.
VAR: also used for makeup calls!
Among the more surprising decisions of the match came from Barcelona's first goal when Lenglet was able to head an opener past Ospina. Upon review of the goal, however, it looked like the defender had shoved the man marking him to the ground to get open for the goal. Yet a VAR check determined that the goal stood. Despite what some might refer to as a clear and obvious error, the official was able to do something that more technology was supposed to correct and make a judgment call to make up for his previous mistake.
Minutes later, in what should have been Barcelona's third goal, VAR microscopically analyzed a replay of Messi's short-lived second goal and found that the ball made just enough marginal contact with his arm, causing the goal not to count. Barcelona would score that third goal later off of a penalty -- which also required a long VAR check.
The break did not dampen Messi's Magic
Messi did not need too long to remind the world what makes him one of the greatest to ever play the game. His goal can only be determined as pure magic, After getting tripped up in the box, he was able to regain his balance, recover the ball he was dribbling and score an incredible, curling effort while he began to slip and fall again. It was the Argentine doing what he does best: conjuring a goal-scoring opportunity where any other player on the planet would fail to create even a modicum of a threat.
Check out the live feed below for updates, analysis and highlights from the Round of 16 match.
Barcelona 3, Napoli 1 (FINAL)
⚽Barcelona: Lenglet (10')
⚽Barcelona: Messi (23')
⚽Barcelona: Suarez - PK (45+1')
⚽Napoli: Insigne - PK (45+4')