Napoli 1-1 Barcelona: Player ratings as Catalans pegged back in Italy

  • The spoils were shared in Naples and it's all to play for in the second leg
  • Robert Lewandowski gave Barcelona a deserved lead
  • Victor Osimhen pegged Barca back on his return to the team

It's all to play for in this Champions League round of 16 tie
It's all to play for in this Champions League round of 16 tie / Pedro Salado/GettyImages
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Barcelona were pegged back by Napoli as the spoils were shared in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

The visitors controlled proceedings for the most part without being exceptional, and they took a deserved lead on the hour through Robert Lewandowski. Victor Osimhen, on his return to the Napoli lineup, equalised 15 minutes later as the two sides played out a 1-1 draw.

It's anyone's tie to snatch when Barca host the second leg on 12 March.


How the game unfolded

The Neapolitan faithful would've expected at least a minor resurgence in the wake of Walter Mazzarri's exit, but their laboured start set the tone for what was initially a dire Champions League showing.

Barcelona matched up against Napoli's build-up superbly, constantly turning the ball over high up the pitch. They couldn't, however, produce the killer moment in front of goal despite Ilkay Gundogan's guile and Joao Cancelo's dynamism down the left flank.

Xavi's decision to utilise Pedri as a fourth central midfielder gave Barca total control of the midfield as their box overwhelmed Napoli's trio. However, the visitors' superiority was fairly sterile as Alex Meret was tested pretty infrequently. The hosts, though, could not put any pressure on the Catalan visitors.

Eventually, Barca's superiority was rewarded as Robert Lewandowski produced a vintage sequence inside the Napoli box to give the visitors a deserved lead. A comfortable away win was seemingly in the offing, but Victor Osimhen sprung out of nowhere to restore parity and set up a potentially thrilling conclusion to proceedings.

The hosts enjoyed their brightest spell of the bout in the aftermath of Osimhen's equaliser as Barca went flat, but chances came few and far between at both ends of the pitch. With the spoils being shared in Naples, it's all to play for in Barcelona next month.


Barcelona player ratings (4-3-3)

Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski wheels away in celebration / Francesco Pecoraro/GettyImages

GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen - 6/10 - The German had very little to do before Osimhen found the back of the net.

RB: Jules Kounde - 7/10 - Wasn't the cleanest of displays in possession, but Kounde has to be credited for taming Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on Wednesday night. The Georgian didn't have a sniff.

CB: Ronald Araujo - 8/10 - The Uruguayan was dominant throughout, and he was let down by his centre-back partner. Relished the duel with Osimhen, often getting the better of the athletic Nigerian forward.

CB: Inigo Martinez - 5/10 - The defender had done a good job on Osimhen right up until Napoli's goal. The overzealous Martinez allowed the Nigerian to spin and finish.

LB: Joao Cancelo - 7/10 - Must've enjoyed the attacking freedom he was handed on Wednesday night. Such a bright spark down the left, even if he was occasionally erratic in the final third.

DM: Andreas Christensen - 5/10 - Deployed in midfield again, Christensen was fine when given time to breathe, but the Dane was caught out on several occasions when pressed. Booked, too.

CM: Frenkie De Jong - 7/10 - This was a fairly mature Champions League display from De Jong after he was cautioned in the first half. Took responsibility in the build-up.

CM: Ilkay Gundogan - 7/10 - The German was Barca's best performer in the opening stages and it looked as if he was going to produce a typical Gundogan performance on the big stage. It didn't quite pan out, however.

RW: Lamine Yamal - 6/10 - Undoubtedly bright, but the youngster wasted a couple of early chances which could've taken the game beyond the vulnerable hosts.

ST: Robert Lewandowski - 7/10 - Took his goal superbly, but questions remain around his overall contribution. Still, at least he's finding the back of the net again.

LW: Pedri - 8/10 - Can assure you that Pedri was not operating as a winger. He's performed this role several times this season, and he enjoyed himself for much of this encounter. The Spaniard's movement constantly sprung doubt into the minds of Napoli's backline. Teed up Lewandowski's goal.


Substitutes

SUB: Raphinha (80' for Lamine Yamal) - 5/10

SUB: Oriol Romeu (86' for Christensen) - N/A

SUB: Joao Felix (87' for Pedri) - N/A

Subs not used: Inaki Pena (GK), Ander Astralaga (GK), Vitor Roque, Sergi Roberto, Fermin Lopez, Pau Cubarsi, Marc Guiu, Hector Fort, Marc Casado,


Manager: Xavi - 8/10 - Xavi picked the right starting XI and his Barcelona side produced their most controlled showing in weeks. Was let down by Martinez.


Player of the match: Ronald Araujo (Barcelona)


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