Gulf Today

Barcelona and Arsenal reach Champions League quarters

David Raya was the hero as Arsenal survived a penalty shootout to scrape past Porto and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 14 years


Barcelona survived a nervy second half to beat Napoli 3-1 on Tuesday and reach the Champions League quarter-finals 4-2 on aggregate.

Xavi Hernandez’s side came flying out of the blocks with goals from Fermin Lopez and Joao Cancelo but ater Amir Rrahmani pulled one back, the Catalans started to sweat.

Italian champions Napoli, who salvaged a 1-1 draw in the last-16 first leg, were finally beaten when Robert Lewandowsk­i swept home from close range.

It is the first time five-time winners Barcelona have reached the last eight of the competitio­n since 2020, and they did so without injured midfield trio Pedri, Gavi and Frenkie de Jong.

“We’re in the quarter-finals of the Champions League ater four years, it’s the moment to enjoy that,” Barca coach Xavi told Movistar.

“We played a great game, the team gave everything, we dominated in many moments ... (I’m) very proud.”

Xavi said he was leaving at the end of the season in January and his team have gone on a run of nine games without defeat ater that decision.

Teenage stars Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi have been key to that form, and both excelled against Napoli on a night which offered some relief to Barcelona amid a bleak season.

Centre-back Cubarsi, 17, got the beter of Napoli forward Victor Osimhen.

“He’s incredible, he was the game’s best player,” Sergi Roberto told Movistar.

“He doesn’t stop surprising us, in the last 16 and playing this way, he’s a player who can be here for his whole life.”

Barcelona became the first team in the competitio­n’s history to start two players 17 or under in a knock-out stage game.

Xavi demanded the fans turn their temporary Olympic Stadium home on the city’s Montjuic hill into a pressure cooker, and they duly obliged. Over 50,000 spectators marked the club’s largest atendance this season.

Francesco Calzona’s Napoli wilted as the Spanish champions came out of the blocks flying.

Electric 16-year-old winger Yamal made strong inroads down the right before the bright Lopez opened the scoring ater 15 minutes.

Cancelo fed Raphinha who cut the ball back into the area for Lopez, who tucked home.

While he may lack the metronomic precision of Pedri, the midfielder provides thrust and an insatiable desire to shoot.

Two minutes later and the Catalans doubled their lead against the shellshock­ed visitors, with Yamal starting the move by breaking loose in his own half on the counter-atack.

David Raya was the hero as Arsenal beat Porto 4-2 on penalties on Tuesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.

The teams were locked at 1-1 on aggregate ater an absorbing second leg at the Emirates but Raya saved twice in the shootout to break the hearts of the two-time champions.

The goalkeeper dived full stretch to deny Wendell and repeated the feat against Galeno, while the home side converted all four of their penalties as the decibel count soared.

It is the first time a Champions League match has been decided by penalties since the 2016 final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

“You are very nervous, you are hoping for the best but you know that it (the shootout) is a bit of a lotery,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told TNT Sports.

“So happy. It has been 14 years (without reaching quarter-finals), which is a long time for a club like Arsenal and it shows how difficult it was. We really had to dig in to find the magic moment at the end.”

“We’ve been patient, worked so hard and a lot of people have made good decisions and showed courage in difficult moments and this is where you want to be,” he added.

Raya, on loan from Brenford, said it was a “great moment personally and collective­ly”.

“This means everything. You play football for these kind of things and I’m lucky to be playing for Arsenal, to be in the Champions League and to get through to the quarter-finals.”

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Arteta’s Premier League leaders -- with 33 goals in their past eight league games -- were not at their fluent best against a discipline­d Porto side.

Leandro Trossard pulled Arsenal level on aggregate shortly before half-time as their patience paid off.

 ?? Reuters ?? ↑
Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowsk­i scores a goal against Napoli during their Champions League last 16 second leg match on Tuesday.
Reuters ↑ Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowsk­i scores a goal against Napoli during their Champions League last 16 second leg match on Tuesday.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bahrain