Barcelona veteran Lionel Messi on Saturday inspired his team to a 3-1 win over Napoli in their second-leg tie of Round of 16 in the ongoing UEFA Champions League. The Catalan giants moved to the quarterfinals with an aggregate scoreline of 4-2 after the 1-1 draw in the first leg in March this year.
Messi was the star of the show with one of the best goals of the season, while Clement Lenglet and Luiz Suarez scored the other two goals for Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Lorenzo Insigne had restored some pride for the visitors.
Barcelona, who have had a topsy turvy season and had sacked their coach Ernesto Valverde mid-season before bringing Quique Setien on board, will be looking to win the Champions League after failing to win the La Liga this season.
As a result of their second-placed finish in the Spanish league – five points behind winner Real Madrid – the future of Setien has also been put under the scanner. Even though the victory against Napoli is likely to ease pressure off his shoulder, only a Champions League title may actually secure his stay at Barcelona.
Napoli, on the other hand, had shown brilliant resilience in the first leg. But a disappointing return after the COVID-19 hiatus saw them finishing at seventh in Serie A. Now with Saturday’s defeat, they are all set to remain out of European action next season.
Meanwhile, at Camp Nou, Napoli began their night on a positive note. They had the first genuine chance to open the scoring when Dries Mertens hit the post in the second minute of the match.
But the momentum shifted dramatically when Lenglet headed in from Ivan Rakitic’s corner in the 10th minute. Barca extended the lead 13 minutes later when Messi produced the moment of this season’s Champions League.
After Suarez provided him the delivery, the Argentine forward from outside the box dribbled past four Napoli defenders. On his way to the inside of box, the challenge from the defenders saw him falling on the ground. But Messi managed to get up and took an aim at the far corner of the net, while making sure the Napoli players didn’t take the ball away from him.
As the ball curled its way into the net, the Napoli players were left in utter disbelief. The six-time Ballon D’Or winner saw the back of the net again off a delightful cross from Frankie de Jong. But the goal was disallowed after VAR found that the delivery had feathered Messi’s arm before landing on his feet.
The 33-year-old was in the heart of the matter again and earned a penalty after Kalidou Koluliably made an unsuccessful attempt at stopping Messi inside his own box. Suarez successfully scored from the 12 yards box.
Napoli got a glimmer of hope when Insigne converted a penalty in the dying minutes of the first-half’s stoppage time after Rakitic had barged into Mertens.
However, a goalless second half was all that Barcelona required to reserve their spot in the last eight. Setien’s side will next face Bayern Munich who toyed with Chelsea in another round of 16 match and moved to the quarterfinals with an aggregate score of 7-1.