After dropping out of the Champions League, Barcelona now faces a difficult task just to qualify for the round of 16 in the Europa League.
In its first appearance in the second-tier European competition in nearly two decades, the Catalan club was held 1-1 by Napoli at Camp Nou Stadium on Thursday in the first leg of one of eight playoffs between third-place finishers in the Champions League groups and Europa League group runners-ups.
It is the first time since 2003-04 that Barcelona is not in the knockout stages of the Champions League, a tournament it won five times.
In the other matchups, Scottish club Rangers stunned Borussia Dortmund 4-2 away, Real Betis won 3-2 at Zenit St. Petersburg and Sheriff beat Braga 1-0. Sevilla, Atalanta and Porto recorded home victories, while Real Sociedad drew 2-2 at Leipzig.
In the playoff matches to reach the last 16 of the inaugural Europa Conference League, Leicester ended a five-game winless streak in all competitions by beating Denmark’s Randers 4-1, while Norway’s upstart Bodø/Glimt upset Celtic 3-1 in Glasgow.
Marseille, PSV Eindhoven, Rapid Vienna, Midtjylland, Slavia Prague and Partizan Belgrade also won the opening leg.
The second-leg games in both competitions are scheduled for Feb 24.
Ferran Torres salvaged the draw for Barcelona by converting a penalty that was awarded due to Juan Jesus’ handball in the 59th minute. The forward calmly sent goalkeeper Alex Meret the opposite way from the spot.
Barcelona dominated the remaining 30 minutes but couldn’t find a winner.
Napoli scored from a counterattack after Torres wasted a chance to net for Barcelona. At the other end, Eljif Elmas set up Piotr Zieliński for the opener in the 29th. Barcelona goalkeeper Ter Stegen saved his first low attempt but the Polish midfielder fired a rebound in the roof of the net.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his first start for Barcelona after his move from Arsenal but was stifled by a well-organized Napoli defense.
In Dortmund, James Tavernier gave Rangers the lead by sending the goalkeeper the wrong wa from the spot in the 38th after a video review confirmed the ball hit the hand of Dan-Axel Zagadou. Alfredo Morelos doubled the advantage for the visitors just three minutes later.
Dortmund improved in the second half but Rangers were firmly in charge. John Lundstram’s long drive increased the lead to 3-0 before English midfielder Jude Bellingham gave the hosts some hope. That was seemingly extinguished after Zagadou scored an own goal, although Raphaël Guerreiro’s long-distance strike eight minutes from time means Dortmund could still have a chance.
Dortmund’s American midfielder Gio Reyna came on as a substitute after halftime to play only the second match since returning from a five-month layoff caused by a hamstring injury. The 19-year-old Reyna was named after Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Rangers’ current coach and a teammate of his dad, Claudio Reyna, at the Scottish club from 1999-2001.
In St. Petersburg, Betis looked dominant for the opening 20 minutes. Guido Rodríguez headed into the top corner of the net to put the Spanish team ahead in the eight minute and forward Willian José doubled the advantage 10 minutes later after a solo effort.
Zenit then staged a comeback as Artem Dzyuba reduced the deficit for Zenit in the 25th minute, and Malcom equalized another three minutes later. Still in the first half, Andrés Guardado restored the lead for Betis, which capitalized on a defensive blunder.
After Sherriff’s impressive Champions League debut that included a stunning 2-1 upset of Real Madrid, Moldova’s champion opened its Europa League campaign with a home victory over Braga in Tiraspol.
Sébastien Thill netted from the spot late in the first half and Adama Traore added the second in the 83rd on a counterattack as the visitors were pushing for an equalizer.
Sevilla beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 after netting twice in the last two minutes in the first half, while Toni Martínez scored twice to lead Porto to a 2-1 comeback home victory against Lazio.
In Bergamo, defender Berat Djimsiti also netted twice within two minutes in the second half to rally Atalanta to a 2-1 victory over Olympiakos.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
Leicester got second-half goals from Harvey Barnes, Patson Daka and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall to secure its first victory since Jan. 8.
Bodø/Glimt, which beat Jose Mourinho’s Roma 6-1 in the group stage, went 2-0 up after 55 minutes and Hugo Vetlesen restored its two-goal cusion after Daizen Maeda had pulled one back for Celtic.
Poland forward Arkadiusz Milik scored twice three minutes apart late in the first half to help former European champion Marseille cruise past Qarabag from Azerbaijan 3-1.
PSV defeated Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-0 with forward Cody Gakpo scoring the winner in the 11th minute.
Defender Joel Andersson scored to give Midtjylland a 1-0 win over PAOK, in the Danish club’s first game after a winter break.
Rapid Vienna beat Vitesse 2-1 after goals from forward Ferdy Druijf and midfielder Marco Grüll. Vienna was down to 10 men when Filip Stojkovic received his second yellow card 20 minutes into the second half, and visitors pulled one back with a goal from Loïs Openda.
Slavia upset Fenerbahce 3-1 in Istanbul after Murphy Dorley and Ondrej Lingr both scored in a two-minute span in the second half. Its Prague archrival Sparta lost 1-0 at home to Partizan Belgrade.
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