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Barcelona 3-1 Napoli: Partenopei out of Champions League

Napoli were undone by defensive errors, Lionel Messi magic and their own poor finishing, as they had more possession at Camp Nou, but lost 3-1 to Barcelona.

Dries Mertens and Hirving Lozano hit the woodwork, while Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty was not enough, going out of the Champions League 4-2 on aggregate.

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The first leg ended 1-1 back in February, meaning the Partenopei had to score at least once here to have any hope of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Insigne shook off a groin injury to start with Dries Mertens, but Barca had Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets suspended, Martin Braithwaite not in the squad, Arthur Melo refusing to play after signing for Juventus, Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti and Jean-Clair Todibo injured, so options were limited for coach Quique Setien.

Napoli almost scored within two minutes at an empty Camp Nou, as Insigne’s cross took a double deflection to land at the feet of Mertens, whose scuffed finish cracked against the outside of the near post.

The Italians had an excellent start to the game and were taking the initiative, but it was Barcelona who broke the deadlock on a corner. Clement Lenglet had a free header, because he shoved Fabian Ruiz into Kalidou Koulibaly, taking both of them out of the equation, but VAR decided it was not a foul.

There were no arguments about the second goal, because Leo Messi pulled out a moment of magic. He cut inside from the right, squirmed between two players, still managed to hook the ball back into his path, then steered a curler into the far bottom corner while falling over.

Messi had put the ball in the net again on 30 minutes when David Ospina parried the Luis Suarez strike, then Messi chested down a Frenkie de Jong cross to dink it over the goalkeeper. However, after a very long VAR check, it was disallowed for a slight handball as he controlled.

VAR was called again when Messi snuck up behind Koulibaly and got his foot in the way when the defender swung the boot to kick the clearance. It was entirely unintentional, but still a penalty and also extremely sore for both of them, so Suarez converted instead of Messi.

Moments later, Napoli also received a penalty with a very similar situation, this time Mertens getting in front of Ivan Rakitic. Insigne stroked the spot-kick past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen for a precious away goal. That makes Insigne the first Italian in the modern Champions League era to score away to both Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Moments later, it was almost 3-2, because Gerard Pique made a desperate block to prevent Jose Callejon volleying in from eight yards with the last kick of the half.

Gattuso threw on Stanislav Lobotka for Diego Demme at the break, and just like the first half, they came out fighting with a determined press all over the pitch. After a series of corners, the deflected Mertens volley was flicked into the arms of Ter Stegen from close range by Insigne’s head, then Pique needed another good sliding block on Insigne at the by-line.

Matteo Politano and Hirving Lozano came off the bench for a 4-2-3-1 formation and it almost immediately worked, the Mexico international turning a free header over from Insigne’s cross.

Napoli had so many corners that it became inevitable Arkadiusz Milik would be thrown on eventually, and within 30 seconds of coming off the bench, the Pole had the ball in the net with a header but was narrowly offside.

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Milik had a strike charged down and as the move continued, Politano floated across to the back post where Lozano’s header thumped the upright from point-blank range. Suarez was booked in stoppages for time-wasting, as Napoli ended the game with more shots on goal, more possession and practically the same number of passes.

Barcelona 3-1 Napoli (4-2 agg)

Lenglet 10 (B), Messi 23 (B), Suarez pen 45 (B), Insigne pen 45+5 (N)

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Sergi Roberto, Rakitic, De Jong; Messi, Suarez (Junior Firpo 92), Griezmann (Monchu 84)

Napoli: Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Fabian Ruiz (Elmas 79), Demme (Lobotka 46), Zielinski (Lozano 70); Callejon (Politano 70), Mertens, Insigne (Milik 79)

Ref: Cakir (TUR)

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