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Victor Osimhen strikes late to earn Napoli draw at home to Barcelona

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 21 Feb 2024

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Victor Osimhen snatched an unlikely 1-1 draw for Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona.

The Nigeria striker cancelled out a trademark Robert Lewandowski strike as a low-quality tie ended all square.

The champions of Italy met the champions of Spain in what should have been the glamour tie of the round at Napoli’s Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

The Argentinian’s name is synonymous with glory days at both clubs but now both are struggling to recapture last season’s title-winning successes.

Napoli, a lowly ninth in Serie A, sacked Walter Mazzarri on Monday with Francesco Calzona replacing him as their third manager of the season.

The Slovakia coach, appointed on an interim basis, had just 48 hours to try to inject some life into their dismal campaign.

Meanwhile, Barca boss Xavi – whose side lie eight points behind rivals Real Madrid in La Liga – announced last month he would be leaving at the end of the campaign.

Two sides bereft of confidence locked horns with Barca, without Gavi, Ferran Torres, Marcos Alonso and Sergi Roberto through injury, dominating the first half but lacking any real goal threat.

Lamine Yamal, their 16-year-old sensation, brought the first save from Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret with a fierce drive from the edge of the area.

Lewandowski’s first chance came from Ilkay Gundogan’s through-ball but his flicked finish was blocked by Meret.

The Napoli defence then opened up invitingly for Gundogan, whose dipping effort was also beaten away by Meret.

For Napoli, Osimhen was playing his first match since before Christmas but he looked isolated up front as the hosts finished the first half without a single effort on goal.

That sorry stat at least changed at the start of the second half when Matteo Politano planted an early header wide.

Gundogan should have done better with Yamal’s cut-back to the edge of the box but his side-footed effort was easily dealt with by Meret.

But Lewandowski broke the deadlock on the hour when Pedri played the ball into his feet.

Lewandowski expertly turned and fired low between two defenders and beyond the dive of Meret.

It was the Poland international’s 93rd Champions League goal, although he had not scored in his last four appearances in the competition.

But Barca had only kept one clean sheet in their previous nine matches and a blunt Napoli attack finally woke up in the 75th minute.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa drove the ball forward and Osimhen rolled Inigo Martinez, who claimed he was fouled, before tucking the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Both sides could have grabbed a winner but Napoli substitute Giovanni Simeone blazed over before Gundogan fired inches wide in stoppage time.

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