Napoli went on the road and got a great result at Barcelona on Thursday in the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-offs. Luciano Spalletti's side drew Barca, 1-1, at the Camp Nou after scoring the opening goal of the night through Piotr Zielinski. Barcelona were the best side for most of the game, especially in the second half when Xavi's side managed to score with Ferran Torres on a penalty kick. But Barca failed to add to their scoreline and things will be all square heading to Naples next week with a spot in the UEL round of 16 on the line.
Barcelona had moments in the first half as well, especially through Torres and recent addition Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Napoli waited to spring the counterattack, and Zielinksi pounced on an opportunity, rocketing his own rebound into the back of the net.
Napoli struggled to find space in the second half, as Spalletti's team lost physicality and dropped the pace as well.
Xavi's side, on the contrary, dominated the final 45 minutes and found the equalizer thanks to VAR ruling a handball on defender Juan Jesus. Torres stepped to the spot and made it 1-1 in the 59th minute.
Barcelona continued to be very dangerous in the last part of the match with some huge chances with Torres and Luuk de Jong missing strong looks.
The second leg is set for Feb. 24 and will be streaming on Paramount+.
(GK) Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Made three saves on the night and nearly had a clean sheet, had it not been for the rebound. But he did his job to help his team get the draw.
(DEF) Oscar Mingueza
Led his team in tackles with six but only converted 28.6% of them. Looked strong in the air though and led his team with 12 duels won. This isn't good news for Sergino Dest.
(DEF) Gerard Pique
Did well enough but rarely had to worry about anything in the air. Had an interception and a clearance. He couldn't do anything on the goal, but the effort was there.
(DEF) Eric Garcia
Not his best display defensively. Rarely looked confident in his tackling, but he did intercept the ball four times. He struggled with Napoli's speed. On the ball, his passing was precise.
(DEF) Jordi Alba
The fullback did not get forward as much as he would have liked, creating just one chance. The ball went down the right side more often, meaning he had little to contribute going forward, especially when Ferran would push out wide.
(MID) Nico Gonzalez
The youngster had his moments. Created a chance and had a half-decent scoring chance as well. He remains superb in making sure his passes reach the right person, rarely turning it over.
(MID) Frenkie de Jong
Not his most impactful performance. The Dutchman did create a bit, but his passing in the final third could have been better. He was replaced after the hour mark.
Superb from the young superstar in terms of creating. He created five chances on the night and really should have gotten an assist from Ferran Torres. Did everything he needed to do.
(FWD) Adama Traore
Never got going. Had a chance created and a shot but touched the ball just 39 times. Taken off after the hour mark and rightfully so.
(FWD) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Decent from the former Arsenal man, but it wasn't a vintage display by any means. The passing was poor at times, but he did create and get into dangerous spots. He needs to shoot quicker.
(FWD) Ferran Torres
That was a rollercoaster. He scored once, off a penalty, but boy did he blow some great chances. Torres should have scored the winner, missing a great chance late. Put just one of his nine shots on goal.
|de Jong (65')|
Came in and really helped his team keep possession, helping them set up some late chances at goal.
| Traore (65')|
In 25 minutes, he had one shot that wasn't close and his passing wasn't crisp.
Never really got involved in his short stint on the pitch but positioned himself well and brought energy.
|Sergino Dest|| Mingueza (81')|| Frustrating getting nine minutes because your manager starts a centerback over you at right back. Quite telling. Not enough time to do much.|| N/A|
|Luuk de Jong|| Aubameyang (86)'|| Late sub who should be applauded. Took two shots in his four minutes on the pitch, offering his team a chance at the win.|| 7 |
| 5 |
He didn't wait terribly long to make changes, but I suspect he'll start Busquets next time, because they needed him for longer. He also must help Ferran regain his confidence.
(GK) Alex Meret
He was fundamental, especially in the second half when the pressure increased and there was a need for a goalkeeper who could not make mistakes. Obviously not guilty for the goal conceded, which came from a penalty.
(DEF) Giovanni Di Lorenzo
Usually he is a factor in the offensive side of the pitch for the way he plays and the chances he creates with assists, this time instead he was more careful not to make mistakes in defense.
(DEF) Amir Rrahmani
He was careful enough to not make any big mistakes and he was helped by the great performance of his teammate Koulibaly. Napoli couldn't ask him more.
(DEF) Kalidou Koulibaly
After winning the AFCON and being the MVP against Inter Milan last Saturday in Serie A, this was another great performance by him. He was like a wall vs. Barca, almost impossible to pass him.
(DEF) Juan Jesus
It wasn't a bad game for the former AS Roma player, but the handball was too evident and it was the reason why Napoli conceded the only goal. Unlucky.
(MID) André Anguissa
You didn't see him much on the pitch, but he was totally needed, especially because he was the reason why Fabian and Zielinski had more freedom next to him.
(MID) Fabian Ruiz
Didn't impress much. He's used to playing closer to the strikers, but he was needed also on the defensive side of the pitch. He wanted to impress his opponents that are always monitoring him for the future.
(MID) Eljif Elmas
He was part of the game, especially for the opening goal that started from him, but then his way of playing was a bit too soft and his position on the pitch is still an issue for Spalletti.
(MID) Piotr Zielinski
He was Napoli's best player. He proved to be a totally different player under Luciano Spalletti this season, much more consistent and provided most of the chances that Napoli got today -- including scoring the goal. Crucial player.
(FWD) Lorenzo Insigne
Napoli's captain played a very defensive game, almost close to the line of the midfielders and did not have many chances to create in the offensive side of the pitch. He was careful in defense, but not very creative when it was needed.
(FWD) Victor Osimhen
Very useful today. His way of playing was needed for his team because he was the only one who tried to kept the ball and make his teammates breath a bit when Barcelona was pushing a lot. Couldn't do much more.
| Lorenzo Insigne (72')|
Came in when Napoli was just thinking about not conceding the second goal. Did his best.
| Piotr Zielinski (79')|
He came in and tried to press more in the midfield area.
| Victor Osimhen (79')|
Couldn't do much. Subbed in when Napoli needed to buy time and not concede the second goal.
|Kevin Malcuit || André Anguissa (84')|
| Late substitute, almost put his team in danger but managed to keep the ball away from the GK. || N/A|
|Mario Rui || Eljif Elmas (84')|
| Late substitute. Had only one pass and couldn't do more really. || N/A|
| 5 |
He has been one of the best Italian managers out there. Napoli came to Barcelona to win the match, even if they had some issues in the second half. But the performance is still positive and tactically speaking he prepared the game perfectly.