Barcelona turned in a classy display as they beat Napoli 4-2 in their Europa League playoff second leg at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium on Thursday to advance to the round of 16 by an aggregate score of 5-3.
Ahead of the match, players from both teams held up a “Stop War” banner following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday night.
The visitors wasted no time in taking the lead, with Jordi Alba finishing off a rapid-fire counter-attack and Frenkie de Jong curling in an absolute beauty from distance to stake Barcelona to a 2-0 advantage before 15 minutes.
Napoli halved the deficit soon after when VAR ruled that Marc-Andre ter Stegen fouled Victor Osimhen in the area and Lorenzo Insigne dispatched the resulting spot kick to bring the home fans back to life.
But Barca struck again before half-time, as Gerard Pique settled a ball in front of goal and fired past Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret to restore Xavi’s side to a two-goal lead after a thrilling opening 45 minutes.
Napoli had their work cut out for them in the second half, but any thoughts of a comeback were put to rest just before the hour mark with a stellar strike from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who curled a first-time shot into the upper right corner from a pass across the box by Adama Traore.
The hosts scored a consolation goal just before full-time through Matteo Politano, but it was too little too late for the Naples side, whose European campaign came to an end on a night when Barcelona were simply the better team.