An excited Lionel Messi led Barcelona to a 3-1 home win over Napoli on Saturday for a 4-2 aggregate victory which led the club to the Champions League quarter-finals for the 13th consecutive season they will face Bayern Munich.
The Catalans got off to a shaky start but took the lead in the 10th minute with a powerful header from a corner from Clement Lenglet before Messi scored a stunning second in the 23rd, seeing four defenders to loop the ball into the corner on the lower.
Messi had the ball in the net again shortly after following a superb team movement, but the goal was harshly ruled out for handball by the Argentine following a VAR review, although Messi went on to won a penalty that Luis Suarez converted for Barca’s third.
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Napoli recovered one when Lorenzo Insigne converted a kick at the end of the first half and were the better side after the interval, but Barca survived to set up a tantalizing clash with Bayern in the Final tournament. Eight in Lisbon next Friday.
“We got the result we wanted. We spent two weeks preparing for the game knowing how difficult it would be and it turned out because they made it difficult for us at times, ”said Suarez.
“We were surprised at the start but we scored first. If they had scored it would have caused some uncertainty, but we handled the game well.
Messi had sounded the alarm after Barcelona’s rusty performance in the 1-1 draw of the last 16 first legs in February, saying they had no chance of winning the European top prize, which had eluded them since 2015, at less than they improve.
He was reportedly worried about Barca’s start to stutter, which saw Napoli invade the pitch and Dries Mertens cut the crossbar in the second minute with a scuffed shot.
But the release of the Napoli defense allowed Lenglet to score with a free header that calmed Barca’s nerves as Messi effectively killed the draw with his goal and winning the penalty by chasing Kalidou Koulibaly into the area and by winning a foul.
However, the fact that Napoli ended the game so well, with Hirving Lozano hitting the post and Arkadiusz Milik’s header ruled out for offside, added to the feeling that Barca will have a hard time beating the beaten Bayern Chelsea 7-1 overall.