Xavi lauds 'most complete' Barcelona performance after Napoli victory

By Sports Desk February 24, 2022

Xavi believes Barcelona produced "the most complete performance of our season" during the second leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off victory over Napoli.

The Blaugrana stormed through to the last 16 of the competition after completing a commanding 5-3 aggregate victory thanks to a 4-2 triumph at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Thursday.

First-half goals from Jordi Alba, Frenkie De Jong and Gerard Pique put the visitors in control in Naples, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled the tie before the hour mark.

Barca registered 16 shots to their opponents' seven – with their four goals coming from six on target – while they enjoyed 56 per cent of possession and won 54.8 per cent of the duels throughout the contest.

And Xavi was delighted as his side booked their place in Friday's last-16 draw.

"Perhaps, this was the most complete performance of our season," the head coach said. "We wanted to dominate and we did. 

"I'm happy about the effort we put in and with the football we played. The result is fair. 

"I am very happy for the players and this is the way forward.  We are on the right road.

"We pressed well, high up, whenever we lost the ball – just like we did at home. 

"Napoli pressed high up and spaces were available in behind them. From defending a corner, we made a textbook counter-attack. We took advantage of our fast players. 

"We understood how to create and use a 'free man'. I'm very happy for the team."

Related items

  • Scotland 1-1 Switzerland: Trademark Shaqiri stunner puts Swiss on brink of last 16 Scotland 1-1 Switzerland: Trademark Shaqiri stunner puts Swiss on brink of last 16

    Switzerland moved a point closer to the last 16 at Euro 2024 as Xherdan Shaqiri returned to their lineup and netted another big goal to rescue a 1-1 draw against Scotland.

    Shaqiri, appearing in a Swiss-record seventh major tournament, was the only change to the team that had beaten Hungary 3-1 in their Group A opener.

    The former Bayern Munich and Liverpool winger was required to come up with a trademark moment of inspiration to secure a result, even if Switzerland fell short of the three points that would have made sure of their knockout place with a game to spare.

    Scotland, seeking to respond to a humbling 5-1 defeat to Germany, started brightly and led following a 13th-minute counter-attack. Callum McGregor cut the ball back for Scott McTominay, whose shot was heading straight at Yann Sommer until defender Fabian Schar stuck out a leg and inadvertently deflected it in.

    Another defensive mishap at the other end opened the door for Shaqiri to score his 10th tournament goal, however, as he seized on Anthony Ralston's loose pass to loft a sublime first-time finish over Angus Gunn into the top-left corner.

    Dan Ndoye had a quick Swiss second disallowed for offside and drew a superb save from Gunn in the second half, although Scotland came closer still to a winner when Grant Hanley headed against the post.

    While Breel Embolo was also denied by an offside flag and Zeki Amdouni nodded agonisingly wide, the point will surely prove more useful to Switzerland than their opponents, who now need a huge goal swing in the final round of Group A matches to finish in the top two.

    Data Debrief: Shaqiri extends streak in style

    This was an historic night for Shaqiri, who marked his landmark appearance with a stunning strike to extend his streak of scoring at tournaments.

    No other European player has scored at each of the past six major tournaments going back to the 2014 World Cup.

    This spectacular effort was on brand, too, as Shaqiri netted from outside the box for a third time at a tournament. Lothar Matthaus and Michel Platini (both four) are the only European players with more such goals since 1966.

  • Nagelsmann lauds maturing Germany but Kroos looking beyond last 16 Nagelsmann lauds maturing Germany but Kroos looking beyond last 16

    Julian Nagelsmann believes Germany's victory over Hungary on Wednesday showed their increasing maturity, even if Toni Kroos is far from satisfied with the Euro 2024 hosts' progress so far.

    Germany became the first team to reach the last 16 of the tournament as goals either side of half-time from Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan saw off tricky opponents.

    Indeed, head coach Nagelsmann suggested this was the sort of match in which his team might previously have faltered.

    "That was a very unpleasant opponent," he told MagentaTV. "You have to win a game like that first.

    "It shows a good maturing process. In November, we would not have won this game."

    It is only the second time Germany have advanced through the group stage in four major tournaments, but there is no time to relax ahead of their third match against Switzerland.

    The hosts will name a strong side as they aim to maintain their momentum.

    "It is important that we have as many players from the first XI back on the pitch as possible, because we have deliberately distributed the roles," Nagelsmann added. "We believe in the players' respective strengths in their roles.

    "It may of course be that we change one or two players; we have to see how everyone gets through this game. But as of now, everyone is healthy."

    That will be music to the ears of retiring midfielder Kroos, who is keen for Germany to go "full throttle" against Switzerland.

    He and his team-mates are perhaps wary of a repeat of the last Euros, where Germany came through the group stage but drew their third match and then had to face England in the last 16, losing at Wembley.

    "There is little reason for the pressure to drop now because we have a bigger goal than just the round of 16," Kroos said.

    He added to RTL: "It is also a statement to come first in the group, and it is important to maintain this run."

  • Southgate 'ambivalent' towards England criticism: 'It used to annoy me' Southgate 'ambivalent' towards England criticism: 'It used to annoy me'

    Gareth Southgate is now "ambivalent" towards the constant scrutiny he and England face, unsurprised his team were criticised even after making a winning start to Euro 2024.

    England beat Serbia 1-0 on Sunday and have the opportunity to secure their place in the last 16 against Denmark on Thursday.

    Victory would mark the first time the Three Lions have started a Euros campaign with back-to-back wins. Indeed, prior to last weekend's match, they had only once won their championship opener – also under Southgate at Euro 2020.

    Those facts were relayed to Southgate on the eve of the Denmark match, with the England manager asked if too much was expected of a team whose stuttering second-half performance against Serbia was picked apart by fans and pundits.

    But Southgate, in his fourth tournament in the role, has come to terms with the narrative around the England team.

    "I've been in this environment for eight years, so I understand it all," he said. "It used to annoy me, but now I'm ambivalent to it. Winning matches in tournaments is incredibly hard."

    Those younger members of Southgate's squad who have not previously experienced the tournament rollercoaster might have been a little more taken aback by the response to the win.

    Southgate explained: "You can see a lot of them who haven't been with England – 'right, we've won our first game, and this is how it is?'

    "That's a strange experience for some of the boys who haven't been with us. It's great that we've got experienced players who have lived through it who can say, 'no, no, this is what's important, this is how we stay on track'.

    "Our assessment of the game is most important. We're never slow to pull things up that aren't right, that aren't good enough. So, that's the most important view, the way we dissect the game."

    Southgate did acknowledge Sunday's match did not go entirely to plan, with Serbia gaining a foothold after half-time, albeit without really threatening to cancel out Jude Bellingham's early header.

    "We didn't set out to sit back," insisted Southgate, with similar patterns in previous tournament matches having been a point of contention.

    Both Southgate and the England supporters will hope for a more complete performance against Denmark then, although the manager confirmed left-back Luke Shaw would not return from injury in time to feature. Right-back Kieran Trippier is in line to deputise again.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.