'Barcelona barely grazed us tonight': Napoli left to rue Antoine Griezmann equaliser as Dries Mertens equals goals record
A superb curling strike from Mertens put the home side in front to draw the Belgian level with Marek Hamsik as Napoli's all-time top scorer with 121 goals
Barcelona manager Quique Setien declared himself satisfied with a draw against Napoli after Antoine Griezmann scored what could prove to be an important away goal in this last-16 Champions League tie.
A superb curling strike from Dries Mertens put the home side in front after half an hour and saw the Belgian draw level with Marek Hamsik as Napoli's all-time top scorer with 121 goals.
But Barca breached a well-drilled Napoli defence in the 57th minute when Griezmann fired in a Nelson Semedo cross.
The Spanish champions will have to do without the services of Arturo Vidal and Sergio Busquets for the return leg in three weeks. Chile international Vidal was sent off late on for picking up two yellow cards while Busquets picked up a caution that ruled him out of the Camp Nou tie.
"In the end it's a draw that is a good result considering that we have another home game," said Setien.
His Napoli counterpart Gennaro Gattuso was left frustrated at the result after his well-drilled defence largely stifled a quiet Lionel Messi and co.
"I think they barely grazed us tonight, they hardly had a single shot on goal," he told Sky Sport Italia.
"If Barca didn't do today what they did three days ago [against Eibar, winning 5-0] it's to Napoli's credit," he added.
"I hope that no one thinks it's over. We know it will be very hard but nothing is finished yet.
"But when on your back you have Messi or Griezmann, you want to play with a little security. This is where we can try to do better on the way back."
Barcelona dominated possession from the first whistle but struggled to find their way through the well-organised Italians, who then struck with their first meaningful attack of the game.
Junior Firpo lost the ball to Piotr Zielinski and the midfielder pulled a pass across to the waiting Mertens, who took a touch just outside the box before curling in a landmark goal, his sixth in seven Champions League games this season.
But the Belgian limped off through injury early in the second half after a hefty tackle from Busquets, which earned the midfielder the yellow card that will rule him out of the second leg.
Barca soon equalised when Griezmann fired home from close range after a neat passing move from the visitors but Napoli responded with Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon both being denied by excellent saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
In the 89th minute, Vidal was booked for a foul on Mario Rui and was immediately shown a second yellow for butting heads with the defender in the aftermath.
With Sunday's La Liga clasico against Real Madrid looming, Barca were also left with concerns over defender Gerard Pique, who limped off with an injury after falling heavily on his ankle.
"We'll see what problem he has, then we can confirm if he'll be available," Setien said.
Published: February 26, 2020 08:26 AM