Published: August 9, 2020 8:40:12 am
A fired-up Lionel Messi led Barcelona to a 3-1 win at home to Napoli on Saturday for a 4-2 aggregate victory which took the club into the Champions League quarter-finals for the 13th consecutive season where they face Bayern Munich.
The Catalans had a shaky start but took the lead in the 10th minute with a powerful header from a corner by Clement Lenglet before Messi scored a superb second in the 23rd, seeing off four defenders to curl the ball into the far bottom corner.
Messi had the ball in the net again soon after following a superb team move but the goal was harshly ruled out for handball by the Argentine following a VAR review, although Messi later won a penalty which Luis Suarez converted for Barca’s third.
Napoli got one back when Lorenzo Insigne converted a spot kick at the end of the first half and were the better side after the interval but Barca survived to set up a mouth-watering clash with Bayern in the Final Eight tournament in Lisbon next Friday.
“We got the result we wanted. We’ve spent two weeks preparing for the game, knowing how difficult it would be and so it proved as they made it tough for us in certain moments,” said Suarez.
“We were taken by surprise at the start but we scored first. If they had scored it would have caused uncertainty but we managed the game well.”
Messi had sounded the alarm after Barcelona’s rusty performance in the 1-1 draw in the last-16 first leg back in February, saying they stood no chance of winning Europe’s top prize, which has eluded them since 2015, unless they improved.
He would have been worried by Barca’s stuttering start which saw Napoli swarm all over the home side’s area and Dries Mertens clip the crossbar in the second minute with a scuffed shot.
But Napoli’s slack defending allowed Lenglet to score with a free header which settled Barca nerves while Messi effectively killed the tie off with his goal and by winning the penalty by chasing down Kalidou Koulibaly in the area and earning a foul.
However, the fact Napoli ended the game so well, with Hirving Lozano hitting the post and Arkadiusz Milik’s header ruled out for offside, added to the sense that Barca will struggle to beat Bayern, who thrashed Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate.
Bayern crush Chelsea to reach last eight
Robert Lewandowski struck twice and set up two more goals as Bayern Munich cruised past Chelsea 4-1 on Saturday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals with a 7-1 aggregate victory and remain on course for a treble of titles.
The Bavarians will be on an 18-game winning streak across all competitions as they head into next week’s Final Eight tournament in Lisbon, where they will face Barcelona.
“We’re already excited. Barca are a quality side but we want to compete with them,” Bayern defender David Alaba said. “We will go to Portugal with confidence and, after the last few months, we have nothing to hide from.”
Bayern, who won the domestic league and Cup double and have won all eight of their Champions League games, quickly killed off the tie with a ninth minute Lewandowski penalty, after having won 3-0 in London in the first leg in February.
Polish striker Lewandowski, with 53 goals in 44 matches in all competitions this season, turned provider to set up Ivan Perisic in the 24th minute as the hosts showed no lack of fitness despite a five-week gap since their last competitive game.
Chelsea, who conceded seven goals in a two-legged European tie for the first time, did not lack match practice having played in the FA Cup final last week.
But half a dozen players were missing through injury, including Cesar Azpilicueta, Christian Pulisic and Pedro, or suspension.
“We had individual errors that gave them goals and at this level that will finish you off,” Chelsea coach Frank Lampard said. “It is a good exercise for us to go up against Bayern and their Champions League experience, with a lot of our players having debut seasons.
“I can see where I want us to go and I know we’ll be back.”
Chelsea did get on the scoresheet with Tammy Abraham’s tap-in after a goalkeeping error as Manuel Neuer palmed the ball into his path a minute before the break but it was Bayern who were in control in the second half.
Bayern substitute Corentin Tolisso restored their two-goal lead in the 76th minute with a well-timed volley from a Lewandowski cross.
The forward then bagged his second eight minutes later with a towering header to make it 13 goals in the Champions League this season, confirming Bayern’s status as one of the favourites for the title.
The three-month stoppage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means that the remainder of the Champions League will be played at neutral venues in one-legged showdowns.
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