?Dries Mertens became Napoli’s joint-top goalscorer as the Serie A side drew 1-1 with Barcelona in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie.
It was an enthralling encounter, and the result means that it is all to play for at Camp Nou in the second leg.
Barça dominated possession in the early stages, with the hosts sitting back and allowing their opponents to dictate the tempo of the game.
Gennaro Gattuso clearly had a plan, but this didn’t stop the ‘parking the bus’ claims from coming out in full force…
Napoli are playing safe here, very cautious approach from the Italians on thier own turf in what it seems an antithesis of thier approach over the last few years. #NAPBAR
— Kaleab Bekele (@kaleab100) February 25, 2020
Napoli are not so much parking the bus as parking the midsized family car. But it’s working. #NAPBAR
— USM Paul Westerberg (@PaulWesterberg5) February 25, 2020
Napoli showing Barcelona far, far too much respect given how average Barca have been this season.
They don’t even look dangerous on the counter. What are they expecting at the Camp Nou even if they draw 0-0 here?#NAPBAR
— ????????????? – Craig King (@FootballSwissEN) February 25, 2020
However, with 29 minutes on the clock, Napoli broke at speed. One pass took out the entire ?Barcelona midfield, allowing Lorenzo Insigne to get in behind. He looked up and played the ball across to Mertens, who took a touch before curling the ball into the top corner.
A stunning finish and a very memorable one, as it means he has now scored 121 goals. This has drawn him level with Marek Hamsik as the club’s all-time leading goalscorer…
??Meanwhile, everyone’s favourite reporter Fabrizio Romano was keen to remind everyone that Mertens is indeed out of contract next June…
Dries Mertens moves level with Marek Hamšík as Napoli’s all-time leading goalscorer… and he’ll be free agent on next June. ? #Napoli #ChampionsLeague
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) February 25, 2020
La Blaugrana made a brighter start to the second half and they began to impose themselves on the game.
And they drew level on 57 minutes through
In the closing stages of the game, Arturo Vidal went flying into a challenge, wiping out Mario Rui. The midfielder then stood up and confronted Rui, pushing his head towards the Napoli player’s head.
The referee showed him a yellow for the tackle…correct decision. He then showed him another yellow for his reaction afterwards…again, a correct decision.
The end result? A red.
It hadn’t been seen very often but, both were worthy of yellow cards. His sending off now means that he will miss the second leg along with Sergio Busquets…
Great decision from the ref, Vidal had it coming. Gave ref no other option. #NAPBAR
— Kyalo (@AmJose_) February 25, 2020
Don’t think I’ve ever seen a ‘double-yellow’ issued like that by a ref before! ? #NAPBAR
— Grace O’Sullivan (@gosulli) February 25, 2020
??Neither side was able to find a winner in the time remaining, leaving it finely poised heading into the second leg at Camp Nou.
All to play for…