Match Report: Napoli 2-4 Barcelona (3-5 agg): Xavi’s side roar through to the last 16

Barcelona celebrate Aubameyang's goal
Barcelona celebrate Aubameyang’s goal

Barcelona stormed through to the Europa League last 16 after completing a commanding 5-3 aggregate victory over Napoli at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona with a 4-2 triumph on the night.

Following a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou last week, Jordi Alba, Frenkie de Jong and Gerard Pique were all on target for Xavi’s side during a pulsating first half.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put the tie beyond doubt just before the hour mark; rendering Lorenzo Insigne’s first-half penalty and a late Matteo Politano strike nothing more than consolations for the hosts.

Luciano Spalletti’s side, who suffered a first defeat in seven games, became the seventh different Italian outfit to fall victim to the Blaugrana on home soil in major European competition.

Seeking a first away win over Napoli, Barca took the lead in the eighth minute as the pacy Adama Traore launched a swift counter before feeding Alba, who neatly finished past Alex Meret.

The visitors doubled their lead five minutes later. Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s long kick downfield broke kindly for De Jong, who curled a stunning 25-yard effort into the far corner.

The hosts halved the deficit midway through the first half when Insigne slotted home from the penalty spot after Ter Stegen brought down Victor Osimhen in the box.

But the two-goal buffer was restored just before the end of a pulsating opening period. Alba’s cross ricocheted kindly for Pique, who sent a low volley into the bottom-right corner.

Aubameyang put the tie beyond doubt on the hour mark. Fresh from his weekend hat-trick against Valencia, the former Arsenal striker produced a sublime first-time finish into the top-right corner after De Jong neatly dummied Traore’s pass.

Napoli grabbed a consolation four minutes from time by punishing sloppy Barcelona possession with Politano sweeping past Ter Stegen.

What does it mean? Napoli streak ends abruptly

Napoli had progressed from all eight of their European knockout ties after drawing the first leg away from home.

But that impressive streak ended abruptly against an inspired Barca, who registered 16 shots to their opponents’ seven and scored four times from six on target.

Delightful De Jong

The Netherlands international produced an inspired performance in the middle of the park, which was capped by a second goal in as many games.

De Jong recorded game-high tallies for successful passes (71), passes in opponents’ half (47) and key passes (three), while no player gained possession more times (nine).

Traore impresses

The Wolves loanee wreaked havoc on the Napoli defence with his trademark pace and power throughout the contest.

Traore recorded game-high tallies of two assists – running half the length of the field before feeding Alba for the first – and five crosses along the way.

Key Opta Facts:

– Aubameyang’s goal was his 23rd in the Europa League, and his first with Barcelona (14 with Arsenal and eight with Borussia Dortmund).

– Barca have scored at least four goals in a European competition game played in Italy for the second time in their history (after doing so against Inter in the Inter-Cities Fair Cup in September 1959 – a game they also won 4-2).

– Los Cules have won a knockout match away from home for the first time since April 2019 (1-0 at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the Champions League).

– Jordi Alba (10 – two goals, eight assists) is the LaLiga defender involved in the most goals in all competitions this season alongside Villarreal’s Alberto Moreno (10 – six goals, four assists).

What’s next?

Both sides return to domestic action on Sunday. Barcelona host Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga, with Napoli travelling to Lazio in Serie A.

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