Naples (Italy) (AFP) – Antoine Griezmann rescued a 1-1 draw for Barcelona at Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.
Frenchman Griezmann struck just before the hour mark for Barca in Naples after Dries Mertens had put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute with his 121st Napoli goal, equalling the club all-time top scorer Marek Hamsik.
Barcelona ended the game with 10 men after Arturo Vidal was sent off with two minutes to go after picking up two yellow cards, following a angry clash with Napoli defender Mario Rui.
Lionel Messi failed to score on his first appearance at the Stadio San Paolo where Napoli legend Diego Maradona reigned supreme three decades ago.
The 32-year-old Messi scored four goals at the weekend in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar that put the Spaniards back top of La Liga, but could not add to his 114 Champions League goals.
The clash was the first between the two teams and also a Champions League debut for Barcelona coach Quique Setien and Napoli’s Gennaro Gattuso, who both took over after the group stage.
Messi fired over on nine minutes after combining well with Frenkie de Jong but Gattuso’s side piled the pressure on the Catalans.
Their pressing paid off on the half-hour mark, with Piotr Zielinski breaking free down the right before finding Mertens, who curled a magnificent finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
He equalled Hamsik’s record and is now six goals clear of Maradona, but was forced off in the second half after a Sergio Busquets tackle for which the Spaniard will be suspended for the second leg.
Barcelona did not waste much time in getting on level terms, as Messi and Busquets combined to send Semedo into the box in the 57th minute.
The Portuguese full-back crossed low for Griezmann to power home right-footed.
Ter Stegen denied Lorenzo Insigne with Jose Callejon also missing a chance for a second, as did Messi with eight minutes to go.
Vidal was sent off after a sliding tackle on Rui before appearing to headbutt the Napoli defender.
The Chilean will also miss the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 18.
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