After a struggle in the first leg, Barcelona knew they could come home to rout Lyon. They had created loads of chances in France but were unable to capitalize on them. This time, coming off some very important recent victories, it was clear it would be different. Barcelona put Lyon to the sword and routed the French side to advance in the Champions League.
Barcelona Advance to Champions League Quarter-Finals
From the moment this game began it was easy to tell Barcelona were ready. Their passing was crisp, their pressing was crisper, and they controlled the start of this game like this Barcelona generation always does. Inside ten minutes Lionel Messi had already forced a world-class save from Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes. When Messi is on it early, it means trouble.
So when Luis Suarez baited Jason Denayer into a challenge, winning a questionable penalty, Messi was ready. He stepped up and imitated his buddy Sergio Aguero’s panenka from the day before. Barca were up 1-0 and ready to rout Lyon. Then Suarez beat Marcelo and laid the ball off beautifully to Philippe Coutinho to double the lead.
However, there was a scary incident in the first half when Lopes collided with Coutinho in the box. Lopes went down holding his face and needed about five minutes of treatment for what was clearly a concussion. He was allowed to stay in the game and try and keep playing, but he was struggling quite a bit. Eventually, he was replaced by backup Mathieu Gorgelin but probably shouldn’t have been allowed to continue anyway.
From a neutral point of view, the best thing would be if Lyon just forgot all about that first half, and when they came out for the second, it looked like they had. They were flying, they were pressing, and they were the better side. Lyon came out with no fear against Barcelona and for a moment it looked like the rout was certainly off.
Marcelo bullied Clement Lenglet on a ball towards the back post, playing the ball back into the mix. After a couple of bad clearance attempts, Lucas Tousart smashed it into the net. Lyon had pulled one back in and, for the next ten minutes, they continued to apply more pressure on Barca than the hosts applied to them.
So Barcelona took the flow out of their game. They made some changes, bringing Ousmane Dembele and Arturo Vidal on for Coutinho and Arthur. Incidentally, both Brazilians had played really well in this game, and Coutinho sure needed it, but suddenly, after a few changes, fouls and stoppages, Lyon had gone ten minutes without creating a chance.
That is when Messi will be there to strike. The Argentine picked up the ball on the break dribbling at the Lyon defence. He had them at his fingertips, so he sent them flying by one way, and finished under the goalie the other. Then Messi found auxiliary centre-forward Gerard Pique on the break for a tap-in fourth goal.
Credit must be given to Lyon, they kept coming at Barca and tried to create chances, but they mostly opened themselves up to Barcelona counters. In the 85th minute, Messi was once again running at the Lyon defence in transition, Dembele and Suarez on either side. He found Dembele who rifled it first-time through the keeper’s legs to send the Camp Nou singing into the night.
This was a total team performance; everyone was playing well, but it’s harder to pick out two players better than Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. The best friends were the best players on the pitch. Their build-up was quintessential to Barcelona holding off Lyon in this game. Whenever Barcelona needed to relieve pressure that was the first place they looked.
It was particularly great to see Suarez play as he did. He was the main whipping boy after the 0-0 draw in France and the draw in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey, but in the two games against Real Madrid and again tonight, he was back to his best. His turn on the second goal was one of his best moments of the season.
Not only did he play well, but so did his former Liverpool teammate. Philippe Coutinho is getting absolutely crushed by Barca fans for his performance, but today was good. It should be noted that Dembele came on and scored so it’s not like he cemented a place, but Coutinho needs a couple of good performances in a row and this could be the start.