Football: Precious Griezmann's goal earns Barcelona draw at spirited Napoli

Football: Precious Griezmann's goal earns Barcelona draw at spirited Napoli

Napoli v FC Barcelona
Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring their first goal with teammate Lionel Messi (right). REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

NAPLES: Antoine Griezmann's second-half equaliser handed Barcelona a vital away goal and earned them a 1-1 draw at Napoli in their Champions League last-16 first leg meeting on Tuesday (Feb 25).

A superb curling strike from Dries Mertens put's the home side in front in the first half and saw the Belgian draw level with Marek Hamsik as Napoli's all-time top scorer in all competitions with 121 goals.

But Barca breached a well-drilled Napoli defence after the break when Griezmann fired in a Nelson Semedo cross.

The visitors ended the game with 10 men after Arturo Vidal was sent off late on for picking up two yellow cards in quick succession.

The two sides, who were facing each other for the first time, will meet again at the Camp Nou for the second leg on Mar 18 with Barca now firm favourites to progress despite having Vidal and Sergio Busquets suspended for the return.

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 his sixth goal 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 immediately shown a second yellow for butting heads with the defender in the aftermath.

Source: Reuters/de