Dries Mertens made history with 121st goal for Napoli, but it wasn’t enough to earn the Partenopei another famous European win as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Barcelona at the Stadio San Paolo in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.
The Belgian swept in a superb finish after half an hour to join Marek Hamsik at the top of the club’s all-time scoring charts, but Antoine Griezmann notched an away goal in the second half as Gennaro Gattuso’s side were left to rue missed opportunities.
Barcelona quickly settled into a slow-tempo passing game but struggled to break down a resolute Napoli side, who then took the lead with their first attack of note on the half-hour mark.
Piotr Zielinski won the ball off Junior Firpo on the right wing and pulled a pass across to Mertens on the edge of the area, who composed himself before lashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
However, the home side lost their goalscorer early in the second half through injury after a bad Sergio Busquets tackle, and things soon got worse when Griezmann fired home the equaliser from Nelson Semedo’s cross.
Napoli responded immediately, as Lorenzo Insigne forced a good save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen before the Germany international came to Barcelona’s rescue by superbly saving Jose Callejon’s finish when the winger had just the goalkeeper to beat.
Barcelona were reduced to ten men in the closing stages when former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal was booked for a challenge on Mario Rui, before immediately picking up a second yellow for butting heads with the defender in the aftermath.