Barcelona return to Champions League quarterfinals after four years

Barcelona return to Champions League quarterfinals after four years
Fecha de publicación: 
13 March 2024
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Goals from Fermin Lopez, Joao Cancelo, and Robert Lewandowski secured Barcelona a 3-1 victory over Napoli, taking them to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in four years on Tuesday.

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández put faith in young players and was richly rewarded, with 17-year-old defender Pau Cubarsi putting in a man-of-the-match performance while making his Champions League debut.

It was 20-year-old Lopez who broke the deadlock just 15 minutes into the game, picking Raphinha’s cutback from the left to slot the ball in.

The Brazilian international, placed on the left wing ahead of Joao Felix, was also instrumental in Barcelona’s second goal two minutes later.

He collected a pass following a run from deep by Lamine Yamal before cutting inside to take a curling shot with his right foot that hit the post.

Cancelo reached the rebound, sweeping his low effort into the net.

Napoli responded back with a goal from Amir Rrahmani into the far corner.

The visitors, who enjoyed great possession after going two goals down, were nearly level, with Matteo Politano taking a goal-bound header from Mario Rui at the half-hour mark.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved Barcelona from conceding by acrobatically tipping the ball over for a corner.

Both teams maintained pace in the second half, with Napoli coming close to the equalizer on a couple of occasions, but Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa could not apply the finish from promising positions.

Alex Meret prevented Ilkay Gundogan from scoring, while Yamal also wasted a chance for Barcelona by sending the ball wide.

Lewandowski settled the nerves for Barcelona as substitute Sergi Roberto picked out a through ball from Gundogan to set up for the Pole, who tapped in from a close range seven minutes from the whistle.

Mathias Olivera hit the crossbar late to miss a further chance for Napoli as Barcelona held firm.

“It’s a day to enjoy being an FC Barcelona fan,” commented Barcelona coach Xavi in the post-match interview.

“We put in a very complete performance. The team was very good with and without the ball, and we dominated many aspects of the game. I am happy with the players, they’ve given their all,” he said.

Napoli coach Francesco Calzona regretted the mistake his players committed.

“We gave them too much space, we lost possession often. The game had different phases, we did well at times and almost equalized,” he said.

“Of course, if you lose, it means something didn’t work. We were ready to face a strong opponent, but we made too many mistakes.”

The two teams were tied 1-1 in the first leg at Naples. 

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