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UCL | Napoli 1-1 Barcelona: Osimhen rescues Calzona debut

Osimhen rescues Calzona debut

Victor Osimhen replied to Robert Lewandowski to give Napoli a precious draw in the Champions League Round of 16 on new coach Francesco Calzona’s debut.

The Partenopei sensationally sacked Walter Mazzarri two days before this game to bring in their third coach of the season, so Calzona made his debut. Victor Osimhen also returned for the first game since starting AFCON duty in late December, but Piotr Zielinski was cut from the UEFA squad list and Cyril Ngonge injured. Barca missed Marcos Alonso, Ferran Torres, Gavi and Alejandro Balde, but Joao Felix had fully recovered for the bench.

It was all Barcelona from the start, as 16-year-old Lamine Yamal stung Alex Meret’s gloves, becoming the youngest player ever to feature in a Champions League knockout stage game.

Meret had to use his feet to deny Robert Lewandowski’s tap-in on a Joao Cancelo pull-back and moments later flew to palm an Ilkay Gundogan scorcher out for a corner.

After the opening 25 minutes under siege, the hosts began to get into the game, but it was the first time in Champions League history that Napoli failed to get a single shot in the first half.

Barcelona did break the deadlock on the hour mark, as Pedri’s ball through the legs of Amir Rrahmani found Lewandowski to control, turn and drill low into the near bottom corner.

Pedri stung Meret’s gloves from distance and a Jesper Lindstrom roll across for Osimhen was intercepted, but the crowd grumbled when Kvaratskhelia was substituted.

However, Osimhen equalised with his last kick of the game, just before he too was hauled off for Giovanni Simeone. The Nigerian showed good strength to turn Inigo Martinez just inside the penalty area on an Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa through ball and fire in from 14 yards.

That boosted Napoli’s confidence and hit that of Barcelona, as they started to pour forward and rack up a series of corners, from which Anguissa nodded wide of the near post.

Simeone also turned a half-volley just over the bar and Gundogan shaved a coat of paint off the base of the post in stoppages, but it’s all square going into the second leg on March 12.

Napoli 1-1 Barcelona

Lewandowski 60 (B), Osimhen 75 (N)