Seven seconds of magic: How Lionel Messi cut through Napoli’s defence

Written by Shashank Nair
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Updated: August 10, 2020 12:06:39 am


Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal against Napoli. (Source: AP)

A man not averse to conjuring a moment of magic when needed, Lionel Messi’s goal — Barcelona’s second — against Napoli in the Champions League game showcased how lethal he can be from areas opposition defences don’t usually consider dangerous.

Outside the box

With Luis Suarez confronted by Napoli’s towering centre- back Kalidou Koulibaly, the Uruguayan makes a frantic pass to Messi lurking on the edge of the box towards the right, farther away from where the action seemingly was.

As has been the case over the years with the Argentine superstar, Napoli instantly responded with two of their players trying to close him down – in this case left-back Mario Rui and left winger Lorenzo Insigne. Insigne has the first stab at Messi, just when the 33-year old cuts into the box.

Messi enters Napoli box

Insigne makes contact and the ball is loose of Messi’s left foot. The loose ball careens off Mario Lui as Messi slips to the ground. But he breaks his fall with his right knee and simultaneously somehow manages to retrieve the ball back on to his left foot. Rui is out of the picture after colliding with Koulibaly, who came to help but ended up stopping his own defender.

At this point, Koulibaly is behind Messi and the ball while Napoli’s second centre-back Kostas Manolas are in front of him.

The angle of the shot

With Manolas blocking his view of the goal and Napoli custodian David Ospina in a favourable position, Messi falls over once again. But this time, it’s to shape his body in a way that he can get a left-footed shot off inside Ospina’s far post.

The Barcelona attacker has to thread the needle here and does exactly that. As he manages to get his shot off while falling to the ground in his follow-up, Ospina makes a dive but could only get his fingertips to the ball as it crashes into the far side of the net. This helps Barcelona to a two-goal advantage on the night as well as the two-legged tie.

It was yet another memorable goal in the Champions League for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. The obstacles in the path would have prevented most, if not all footballers in the world, but the seven seconds of magic from Messi found a way.

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