Claudio Bravo made a spectacular first-half save before committing a late howler that led to the only goal of this pre-season friendly, as Napoli triumphed over Barcelona in Geneva, Switzlerland, on Wednesday.
Bravo, who joined Barcelona for €12 million from Real Sociedad back in June, stretched himself to deny Napoli captain Marek Hamsik a certain opener inside the first quarter-hour.
However, the Chile international went from hero to zero in the 80th minute when his botched attempt at a catch saw him fumble Blerim Dzemaili’s shot into the back of his own net.
The defeat means Barcelona have won just a single match so far this summer while managing only a single goal from three matches. Napoli, meanwhile, have yet to lose or draw since reconvening and have tallied eight times in four outings.
A cautious opening to the encounter at Stade de Geneve featured the odd bit of ingenuity from Barcelona’s Rafinha and Ivan Rakitic before Hamsik tested Bravo with a goal-bound header.
Andres Iniesta, who was generally poor on the night, released a tricky shot from distance midway through the first half that Napoli midfielder Jorginho was able to partially block before goalkeeper Rafael made the ultimate save.
The former Santos stopper was next called into action just after the half-hour mark to prevent 18-year-old attacker Munir from breaking the deadlock.
While the two would battle before the latter’s withdrawal on the hour mark, it would be Rafael who prevailed in the duel.
Perhaps surprisingly, Barcelona boss Luis Enrique opted to begin the second period with an unchanged side while Napoli counterpart Rafael Benitez made a trio of substitutions—introducing Faouzi Ghoulam, Michu and Giandomenico Mesto in favour of Miguel Angel Britos, Duvan Zapata and Christian Maggio.
Dries Mertens, Gokhan Inler, Camilo Zuniga, Edu Vargas, and Dzemaili would also come on at various points after the restart for the Partenopei.
Enrique, meanwhile, waited a further 15 minutes—a spell that included a narrow Pedro miss—before taking off Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Munir, Iniesta and Rakitic. He inserted Edgar Ie, Alex Grimaldo, Sergi Samper, Sandro Ramirez, Sergi Roberto and Alen Halilovic into his line-up.
Adama Traore, Gerard Deulofeu and Frank Bagnack would also see action for the 2013-14 La Liga runners-up.
It was after the first set of Barcelona changes that the Catalans finally seemed to find their rhythm, although the youngsters either failed to place their shots on target or were denied time and again by Rafael.
In the 69th minute, Pedro left two opponents in the dust after accepting Ie’s pass and dropping the ball to Grimaldo, although the left-back’s attempt at a cross to the far post was a poor one.
Two minutes later, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly—on a booking for a first-half foul on Rafinha—did well to block off Sandro with Barcelona growing in confidence.
It was against the run of play that the Serie A side finally scored the game’s first goal—Dzemaili’s long-range blast mishandled by Bravo en route to the back of the net.
Barcelona’s reply was immediate, but Deulofeu was robbed by Rafael with seven minutes remaining, and the Brazilian goalkeeper sealed the win for his side with a vital clearance on Deulofeu’s free-kick in the 87th minute.
Rafinha, Barcelona: A-
Rafinha was brought back from a loan spell at Celta Vigo in order to compete for a place in Luis Enrique’s first team, and based on Wednesday’s performance, that’s exactly where he’ll be when the Primera Division campaign begins later this month.
The 21-year-old brother of Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago menaced the Napoli back line in an advanced role and linked up nicely with Munir and Pedro in attack. He also seemed to show something of an understanding with Rakitic—another Barcelona newcomer.
Barcelona Overall: C
The kids impressed, but at the end of the day they failed to find the back of the net. Munir, in particular, was wasteful in front of goal.
However, the real culprits were Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, who offered next to nothing in the first half.
Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli: A
Acquired by Napoli last May from Belgian outfit Genk, Koulibaly dealt nicely with every Barcelona attack he faced in Geneva. His first-half foul on Rafinha was a nasty one, but to his credit he regrouped and was able to keep his cool through a competitive second period in which his side was mostly on the back foot.
Napoli Overall: B+
Content to watch on as Barcelona enjoyed the majority of possession, Napoli nevertheless looked consistently dangerous on the break and had several chances to open the scoring before Dzemaili finally did the business with 10 minutes remaining.
Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne looked especially sharp in attack.
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