Francesco Calzona admits some ‘tactical confusion’ was natural at Napoli in the circumstances, but hails their ‘reaction’ to a strong Barcelona start. ‘That is fundamental.’

It has been a whirlwind few days for the Slovakia coach, as he was hired to replace Walter Mazzarri on Monday evening and had just two training sessions to prepare for this Champions League Round of 16 tie.

“We have a lot of work to do, but I congratulated the team for rediscovering the desire to fight,” Calzona told Amazon Prime Video Italia.

“It was a very good second half, but on a tactical level we need progress. I put out some players who were not in the best shape, we allowed Barcelona to change the lines and cross the field, which you cannot do with a team like this.

“However, at the end we tried to win it and that is an important sign. I really liked the spirit of the side.”

Alex Meret kept them in the game with saves on Lamine Yamal, Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan in the first half, but after Robert Lewandowski pounced on a Pedri through ball, Victor Osimhen replied on the Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa assist by turning Inigo Martinez.

“The players gave their heart and soul to avoid defeat against a very strong opponent,” continued Calzona.

“Considering our tactical problems, we struggled at the start, but I can understand there is some confusion after only one and a half days of working together.

“Those who came off the bench provided more energy and organisation, doing very well.”

Calzona was certainly not shy about making strong decisions, as he hauled off Kvicha Kvaratskhelia for Jesper Lindstrom and then replaced Osimhen straight after the goal.

“We suffered a great deal in the first half-hour, then the team reacted. It was a disorganised reaction, but still a reaction. That is fundamental, fighting to the end against a team of this quality leaves me satisfied.”

It is all square going into the second leg on March 12, which will not be at Camp Nou due to restructuring work, so is instead hosted by the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

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