VICTOR OSIMHEN SCORES AS NAPOLI HOLD BARCELONA TO 1-1 DRAW IN CHAMPOINS’ LEAGUE ROUND OF 16

Victor Osimhen salvaged a draw for Napoli in his first club appearance since December as they held Barcelona in their Champions League last-16 first leg.

Robert Lewandowski handed Barca the lead in the 60th minute in Italy when he arrowed an effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Barcelona were dominant against a Napoli side whose final-third efforts were often lacking in Francesco Calzona’s first game in charge.

But the hosts eventually found a way back when Osimhen slipped past his marker in the box before rifling past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to level.

Osimhen was part of the Nigeria side who lost to Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations final in February and missed his side’s most recent league game through suspension.

The visitors had the brighter start with 16-year-old Lamine Yamal – who became the youngest player to feature in the Champions League knockout stage – making inroads on the right-hand side.

Xavi’s side pressed relentlessly in the final third, charging down Napoli’s attempts to build from the back and nullifying the hosts’ ability to threaten.

Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret was forced to save efforts from Yamal and Lewandowski before he reacted well to palm away an Ilkay Gundogan effort from distance.

The Italian side have severely struggled in their Serie A title defence, languishing in ninth place and trailing leaders Juventus by 27 points, and replaced Walter Mazzarri with Calzona – who is also Slovakia manager – on Tuesday.

There were few signs of immediate improvement, though, and they failed to even register a shot in the first half, a first for Napoli in the Champions League.

Osimhen tried to make runs behind the defence but was often left isolated as the hosts failed to muster moves in Barcelona’s half.

Xavi’s side, who have faltered in La Liga and are eight points behind leaders Real Madrid, were dominant for much of the match, but Napoli began to grow into the game in the second half and were more energetic after making substitutions.

Barcelona broke the deadlock through Lewandowski and were headed for victory, but the hosts eventually found their footing and fought their way back to a draw.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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