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  HOME | Sports (Click here for more)

Barça, Bayern Grab Final Spots in Champions Quarterfinals



BARCELONA – FC Barcelona did enough against a spirited Napoli and Bayern Munich dispatched Chelsea on Saturday to set up a Champions League quarterfinal clash between two clubs that have each won the competition five times.

Bayern came into Saturday’s contest at Munich’s Allianz Arena with a commanding 3-0 lead after the first leg. Few gave the Blues much chance against the Bundesliga champions.

Barça, however, started the match at Camp Nou level with Napoli at 1-1 and while they were favored, the Blaugrana could not afford to take anything for granted.

After seeing archrival Real Madrid dash its hopes for a third straight LaLiga crown, Barcelona was desperate to avoid a repeat of their previous Champions League collapses against Juventus (2017 quarterfinal), AS Roma (2018 quarterfinal) and Liverpool (2019 semifinal).

Yet even with so much at stake, Barcelona seemed content to let Napoli dominate during the opening minutes on Saturday, conceding 80 percent possession to the visitors.

A moment of indecision by defender Gerard Pique set up a chance for Dries Mertens, Napoli’s all-time leading scorer, in the second minute, but the Belgian international hit the post.

The hosts looked for chances on the counter and set pieces and got their reward in the 10th minute, when Clement Lenglet beat Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina with a shot off a corner to put Barça up 2-1 on aggregate.

Lionel Messi extended the lead with a great goal in the 23rd minute, his 20th in Barcelona’s last 12 Champions League games at Camp Nou.

The captain looked to have settled the tie in the 30th minute with another gem, only for the goal to be taken off after VAR determined that the ball touched Messi’s arm as he maneuvered into scoring position.

VAR intervened again in the final minutes of the first half, awarding Barcelona a penalty after a collision between Messi and Kalidou Koulibaly that left the Argentine lying on the pitch for what seemed like an eternity as the officials deliberated.

Though Messi was back on his feet by the time the referee pointed to the spot, he delegated the kicking duties to Luis Suarez, who converted with authority.

But the first half wasn’t over yet. Ivan Rakitic brought down Mertens in the area and Lorenzo Insigne made the penalty to narrow the deficit for Napoli to 3-1 (4-2).

Barcelona managed the game well in the second half, largely keeping Napoli away from Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal.

Arkadiusz Milik, who came in for Insigne, made the most of one of those chances in the 80th minute, but the goal was disallowed for an offside infraction.

In Munich, Chelsea’s erratic defending proved costly again.

Finding himself alone in front of Robert Lewandowski, Blues goalkeeper Willy Caballero fouled the Polish striker and conceded a penalty in the 10th minute.

The Bundesliga scoring king stepped to the line to make it 1-0 for Bayern on the night and 4-0 overall.

Past 20 minutes, Thomas Müller robbed Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic and relayed the ball to Lewandowski, who set up Ivan Perisic for the second goal.

Callum Hudson-Odoi got the first shot for the Blues in the 26th minute and put the ball behind Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer two minutes later, but the goal was disallowed because Tammy Abraham was offside.

Abraham made amends by tapping in from close range in the 44th minute to open the scoring for Chelsea in the tie.

Substitute Corentin Tolisso extended the lead in the 75th, redirecting a cross from Lewandowski, who completed the 7-1 demolition in the 84th minute with his 13th Champions League goal of the season.

Barcelona last won the Champions League in 2015, while Bayern has not hoisted the trophy since 2013. The sides will meet in Lisbon next Friday in a single-leg quarterfinal to determine which of them will have to wait at least one more year.

 

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