Barcelona ease into quarters
Lionel Messi was on target twice and provided two assists to help Barcelona ease past Lyon 5-1 in the second leg of their Champions League tie and reach the last eight.
It was the 12th year in a row that the Spanish giants had made the quarter-finals and it keeps alive their prospects of a treble including the Spanish league title and the Copa del Rey, though they are currently rated as second favourites to win the Champions League with sports betting firms.
Lyon secured a creditable 0-0 draw in the first leg, but they were no match for Barça at the Camp Nou and were dismantled by a vintage display of brilliance from Messi. He scored a nonchalant penalty on 17 minutes to give the home side the lead before Philippe Coutinho tapped home from a pass by Luis Suárez to extend their advantage.
Trailing 2-0 at half-time, the visitors gave themselves hope on 58 minutes when a volley from Lucas Tousart made it 2-1, but then Messi settled the tie. On 78 minutes, he scored a third for Barcelona with a brilliant weaving run that left Lyon’s defenders sprawling, before finishing neatly into the corner. The Argentinian maestro then set up goals for Gerard Piqué and Ousmane Dembélé to make it five.
On Tuesday night, Messi’s old rival Cristiano Ronaldo recorded a hat-trick to help his new team Juventus to progress to the last eight, but Messi’s performance on Wednesday night was the equal of Ronaldo’s. He ran the game, and orchestrated two goals, while adding two of his own, including the all-important opener, which he took calmly, and the vital third goal, which gave Barcelona breathing space after the visitors had picked up an away goal and halved their deficit to 2-1.
Lyon, who are currently third in the French league, faced a tough test and were hanging on grimly at times in the first half, but to their credit, they kept battling and scored from their first sight of goal, through a skilful finish from Tousart. Nabil Fekir and Memphis Depay both then had chances to test Barcelona, but Messi’s second appeared to knock the resolve out of the visitors. They also had to cope without starting goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, who came off with an injury during the first half.
Barcelona are the only Spanish team remaining in the Champions League and will find out who they are set to face in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Words: Jonah Farrell