• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Napoli 1-1 Barcelona: Osimhen goal rescues point for Italian champions


Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen made a sensational return to action for Napoli on Wednesday as his goal gave the Italian champions a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League last-16 first leg on new coach Francesco Calzona’s debut.

The Partenopei sacked Walter Mazzarri two days before this game to bring in their third coach of the season, so Calzona made his debut. Osimhen also returned for the first game since starting Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) duty with Nigeria in late December 2023.

Robert Lewandowski handed Barcelona the lead in the 60th minute in Italy when he arrowed an effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in his first match in two months.

Osimhen had last played for Napoli in a 2-0 defeat at Roma just before Christmas when he was one of two players from his team to be sent off.

His ninth club goal of the season came at a crucial time, not just in the match but in Napoli’s campaign as they play under their third manager of the season Francesco Calzona.

Calzona had less than 48 hours to prepare for his first match in charge after replacing Walter Mazzarri on Monday night, and Osimhen gave Napoli a chance to progress despite a disjointed performance by his team.

Osimhen was part of the Nigeria side that won Silver at the 2023 AFCON after losing the final to host Ivory Coast.

The away side had the better chances but couldn’t put Napoli away and could yet pay for their wastefulness.

Barcelona were dominant against a Napoli side whose final-third efforts were often lacking in Francesco Calzona’s first game in charge.

But the hosts eventually found a way back when Osimhen slipped past his marker in the box before rifling past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to level.

The second leg takes place in Barcelona on March 12.

Napoli head into next month’s second leg in the Catalan capital knowing that with Osimhen in the team, there is always a chance of a goal regardless of the overall team display.