Soccer-Napoli fight back to draw with Barcelona in dull game

Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 - First Leg - Napoli v FC Barcelona - Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy - February 21, 2024 Napoli's Giovanni Simeone in action with FC Barcelona's Inigo Martinez REUTERS/Remo Casilli

NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) -Napoli fought back to hold visitors Barcelona to a dour 1-1 draw in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday as Victor Osimhen cancelled out Robert Lewandowski's opener.

Last year's Spanish and Italian champions, both struggling this season, played out a poor match in which both sides were toothless and lacking attacking flair.

Third in the LaLiga standings eight points behind leaders Real Madrid, Barcelona dominated the first half against a disorganised Napoli who barely managed to get out of their own half.

"It is not a good result for the return leg," Barca manager Xavi Hernandez told Movistar Plus.

"We were better in all aspects of the game, we had to control and we struggled, we weren't effective up front, it was a summary of our season."

Barca were playing their first Champions League knockout match for three years while Napoli were led by new coach Francesco Calzona with their Serie A title defence in tatters as they languish ninth in the domestic standings.

Napoli were frustrated by Barca's high pressing, missing simple passes and gifting the ball to the visitors who also looked short of ideas in possession.

Teenager Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest player to appear in the knockout phase of the Champions League at 16 years and 223 days, was also bidding to become the tournament's youngest scorer but he sent an early effort wide and had a strike from distance saved by goalkeeper Alex Meret.

Ilkay Gundogan twice shot wide for Barca before Poland striker Lewandowski broke the deadlock in the 60th minute.

He received a pass from Pedri just inside the box and made space to unleash a bullet strike into the bottom corner of the net.

That woke Napoli up and Nigerian Osimhen, playing his first game since the Africa Cup of Nations, equalised 15 minutes later with a fine swivelling strike from inside the box to leave the tie evenly poised ahead of the return leg in Spain on March 12.

"We have a lot of work to do, but I congratulated the team for rediscovering the desire to fight," Calzona told Amazon Prime Video Italia.

"We struggled at the start but I really liked the spirit of the side. The players gave their heart and soul to avoid defeat against a very strong opponent."

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas, editing by Ed Osmond)

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In Football

Soccer-Perfect Palmer hits four as Chelsea thrash woeful Everton 6-0
Soccer-Simeone wary of Dortmund's home strength ahead of Champions League return
Soccer-New U.S. manager Hayes will bring winning mentality for Paris, say players
Soccer-Santos women's coach Lima steps down after harassment allegations
Soccer-Roma's Ndicka discharged from hospital after collapsing on the pitch
Soccer-Terzic seeks Dortmund reaction in Champions League return against Atletico
Soccer-PSG will get past Barcelona in Champions League says manager Luis Enrique
Soccer-Bilbao's Garcia to retire following Copa del Rey triumph
Late arrival Luqman pumped up for good show in Asia Cup after Japan stint
Canaries fly in Dos Santos to beef up the back line

Others Also Read