LONDON -Japan Today
Barcelona’s January signings shone as a 4-2 win at Napoli booked their place in the Europa League last 16, while Rangers held off a Borussia Dortmund fightback to progress after a 2-2 draw in Glasgow.
For the first time in 17 years, Barca are not involved in the knockout stages of the Champions League and had work to do in Italy after a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou last week.
Xavi’s men raced into a two-goal lead inside 13 minutes as Adama Traore’s powerful run teed up Jordi Alba to open the scoring before Frenkie De Jong curled home from the edge of the area.
Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty reduced Napoli’s deficit, but Barca restored their two-goal cushion when Gerrard Pique found the far corner from Alba’s cross.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick at Valencia on Sunday in just his fourth appearance for the club and showed his finishing prowess once more with a brilliant strike into the top corner on the hour mark as Traore grabbed another assist.
Barca’s January recruitment of Ferran Torres, Traore and Aubameyang despite the club’s financial problems has made an instant impact on results, but Xavi insisted there is a long way to go to reach their former glories.
“We aren’t favorites (to win the Europa League). We haven’t done anything yet,” said the Barca boss.
“We need to keep working with humility.”
Matteo Politano pulled another goal back three minutes from time, but it was too little, too late for the Italians as they can now concentrate on winning a first Serie A title since 1990.
Rangers made it through to the last 16 for the second consecutive season with a thrilling 6-4 aggregate win over the German giants.
Captain James Tavernier opened the scoring for the Scottish champions from the penalty spot, but Rangers trailed 2-1 on the night at half-time as goals from Jude Bellingham and Donyell Malen threatened to spark a Dortmund comeback.
Tavernier struck again early in the second half to settle the home side’s nerves and they saw the game out amid a deafening noise at Ibrox.
“It is a big moment for the club,” said Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. “We have made a lot of people proud.”
Zenit St Petersburg bowed out 3-2 on aggregate to Real Betis after a 0-0 draw in Spain which was overshadowed by the backdrop of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
St Petersburg is expected to be stripped of hosting the Champions League final on Friday and there have been calls for UEFA to expel Russian sides from European competition.
Zenit’s Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy was left on the bench after he posted on social media pleading for peace.
An injury time winner for the visitors from Dmitri Chistyakov which would have sent the tie to extra time was controversially ruled out after a VAR review.
Six-time winners Sevilla needed to see out a nervy final 25 minutes as the Spaniards progressed 3-2 on aggregate despite a 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb.
Mislav Orsic scored the only goal of the night from the penalty spot after Marcos Acuna handled inside his own box.
Real Sociedad were well beaten 3-1 at home by RB Leipzig to bow out 5-3 on aggregate.
Willi Orban and Andre Silva put the Germans 2-0 up before Martin Zubimendi pulled a goal back.
However, Emil Forsberg’s late penalty ensured Leipzig progressed.
Porto beat Lazio 4-3 on aggregate after a 2-2 draw in Rome, while Atalanta were convincing 3-0 winners in Greece to see off Olympiakos 5-1 on aggregate.