Barcelona rely on moments of magic in unconvincing Champions League win over Napoli

Barcelona rely on moments of magic in unconvincing Champions League win over Napoli

It was job done for Barcelona on Tuesday night as they overcame a tough Champions League clash with Napoli to reach the quarter-finals.

Fermin Lopez and Joao Cancelo scored an early quickfire double before the Italians stepped up a gear and cut the deficit through Amir Rrahmani. Despite dominating for long spells, Napoli eventually ran out of steam and Robert Lewandowski scored late to seal a 3-1 win on the night, 4-2 on aggregate.

The first 20 minutes of the tie not only swung the pendulum towards the Catalans, but even hinted at the days of old when they dominated such occasions with ease and grace.

A slick passing move down the left flank caught Napoli napping as Cancelo rolled Raphinha towards the byline, where he cut back to find Lewandowski. His dummy created the space for Fermin to slot home and put Barcelona ahead.

Only 121 seconds later, in the 18th minute, they created more havoc down the same wing as Raphinha drilled a shot against the inside of the post - and Cancelo pumped the rebound into the back of the net.

Napoli did not quite looked dead and buried but were open at the back and there for the taking, yet Barcelona lacked the required level of control on the ball as well as much more killer instinct in the final third.

Still pressing high and with defenders popping up in attack, Francesco Calzona’s side looked ready and willing to try and outscore their opponent. First Giovanni Di Lorenzo appeared from right-back to test Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a header before Rrahmani ventured forward from the centre of defence to power home a striker’s finish after Matteo Politano was gifted time and space down the right wing.

Much had been made of Xavi’s faith in youth on such a big night for Barcelona, who need every penny of prize money they can get after four years away from the quarters with their financial issues far from settled.

Pau Cubarsi, 17, was solid but naturally wayward at times on his Champions League debut at the heart of the defence and Napoli began to take advantage of the general ropiness that emerged in the hosts’ display.

Kvicha Kvaratskhelia saw a whipped effort drop wide of the far post on 47 minutes before Victor Osimhen’s penalty appeals were waved away despite Cubarsi trodding on his foot going for the ball.

Barcelona, with the help of some experienced substitutes, managed to ride out the storm with Raphina forcing a save and Lamine Yamal seeing a goal chalked disallowed for offside.

However, the visitors were not done yet and produced their best chance of the night with 10 minutes left, but Jesper Lindstrom guided a free header wide at the far post.

Lewandowski punished the miss mere moments later through a classic Barcelona goal which heralded their glory days, Gundogan slipping Sergi Roberto into the box and an unselfish lay-off was rolled home by Lewandowski.

Napoli still managed to threaten, Mathias Olivera hitting the crossbar and Kvaratskhelia shooting wide after a dreadful Oriol Romeu pass, to underline how this was not a Barcelona team laying down a marker for potential rivals for the trophy - but instead a stuttering, youthful side very much grateful for its spot in the last eight.