Napoli 1-1 Barcelona: Griezmann salvages draw

Antoine Griezmann cancelled out Dries Mertens' landmark goal to leave the round of 16 tie all-square.

Highlights: Napoli 1-1 Barcelona

Antoine Griezmann's second-half strike earned Barcelona a hard-fought draw against a well-drilled Napoli side in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg.

NAPOLI V BARCELONA: AS IT HAPPENED

The match at a glance

Dries Mertens celebrates after opening the scoring
Dries Mertens celebrates after opening the scoringGetty Images

The Italian hosts followed Gennaro Gattuso's master plan to the letter for much of the evening, soaking up the pressure and attacking with pace-infused venom when the opportunity arose. It was through one such counter that Dries Mertens broke the deadlock on 30 minutes, firing in a sumptuous effort after Piotr Zieliński had dispossessed Junior Firpo.

Napoli kept going, unrelenting, but just before the hour disaster struck. First Mertens limped off with an ankle problem and then, with replacement Arkadiusz Milik barely on the pitch, it was 1-1 as Griezmann turned in Nélson Semedo's cross. Lorenzo Insigne spurned two great chances to restore Napoli's advantage as Barcelona, who had Arturo Vidal sent off late on, held on.

All to play for in the second leg.

Man of the Match: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

Aitor Karanka, UEFA technical observer: "It’s a really difficult decision but Busquets stood out for me. With the ball he tried to manage the tempo, and his pass to Semedo helped set up the equaliser. Without the ball he kept the team's balance."

Watch Busquets in action and hear from Barcelona's Man of the Match
Watch Busquets in action and hear from Barcelona's Man of the Match

UEFA is giving out an official Man of the Match award after every UEFA Champions League knockout stage game to recognise the top performers in Europe's top club competition.

View from the stadium: Vieri Capretta, Napoli reporter

Gattuso and the fans can be proud of the performance, but disappointed by the result. Napoli could have won. Now it will be tough. Not only will they have to score at the Camp Nou, they will possibly have to do so without Mertens – now their joint all-time leading scorer on 121 goals – following his withdrawal here.

Visitors' view: Graham Hunter, Barcelona reporter

Leo Messi isn't only Barcelona's best player, he's prescient too. Last week he talked about his squad not quite being in the form to become UEFA Champions League winners and he demanded an end to "stupid mistakes". Neither Junior's part in Napoli's goal nor Vidal's hot-tempered red card really took account of captain's orders. That said: Liverpool lost here, Juventus lost here – Napoli are no pushovers. Home advantage to come with an away goal in the bag. Not the worst competition debut for Quique Setién.

Reaction

Gennaro Gattuso, Napoli coach: "They had done very little up front, then we made that mistake and they scored. If we take our chances in the second leg we can progress. Our dream at the Camp Nou is to play further up the pitch."

Lionel Messi in action in Naples
Lionel Messi in action in NaplesUEFA via Getty Images

Quique Setién, Barcelona coach: "It's a positive result for us overall. We controlled most of the game but we lacked something in the final third against such an organised defence. They played their football well, they defended well."

Key stats

  • Napoli and Barcelona both remain unbeaten in the UEFA Champions League this season.
  • Barcelona have conceded the first goal in each of their last seven away games in all competitions.
  • Mertens' goal was his 121st for Napoli, moving him level with Marek Hamšík as the club's all-time leading scorer, six ahead of Diego Maradona in third.
  • Lionel Messi has scored seven goals in 15 round of 16 away matches – compared with 19 goals in 14 last-16 home games.
  • Barcelona have won only one of their last nine away UEFA Champions League knockout games.
  • Kostas Manolas made his 50th UEFA Champions League appearance.

Line-ups

Napoli: Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimović, Mário Rui; Fabián Ruiz, Demme (Allan 80), Zieliński; Callejón (Politano 74), Mertens (Milik 54), Insigne

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Piqué (Lenglet 90+3), Junior Firpo; De Jong, Busquets, Rakitić (Arthur 56); Vidal, Griezmann (Fati 87), Messi

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