Thursday March 14, 2019
Pau Barrena / AFP | Barcelona's Lionel Messi vies for the ball with Lyon's Marcelo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 13, 2019.
Lionel Messi came up just short of matching Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick a day earlier but still scored twice and set up two more as Barcelona beat Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
After Ronaldo's treble on Tuesday for Juventus sent Atletico Madrid packing in Turin, Messi delivered his own symphony at the Camp Nou, where Lyon were outplayed save for a very brief period in the second half when they threatened a comeback in this last-16 tie.
A 0-0 draw in France in the first leg last month meant Lyon always had a chance to make Barca nervous, but Messi's sumptuously chipped penalty and a simple finish from Philippe Coutinho looked to have finished the tie before half-time.
Yet Lucas Tousart's volley left Lyon one goal away from putting Barcelona out, only for Messi to take charge. He scored once more, before teeing up Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele to complete the victory.
Messi now has 108 goals in the Champions League, behind Ronaldo's imperious 124, but his latest double takes his team one step closer to the trophy they crave the most.
They go into Friday's draw for the last eight as the sole Spanish representative, along with Juventus, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Porto and Ajax.
The last time Spain only had one team left at this stage of the competition was 2010 and after Atletico Madrid's exit to Juventus on Tuesday, Barca needed to win to avoid the first Spanish black-out in the quarter-finals since 2005.
Coutinho had been whistled off by his own fans last weekend but was picked to start, preferred to Dembele who had just recovered from a hamstring strain. World Cup winner Nabil Fekir started for Lyon, having served a suspension in the first leg.
Lyon could barely escape their own penalty area in early exchanges as Messi got to work. He fired one shot towards the top corner and then latched onto a Sergio Busquets pass but Anthony Lopes sprung out to intercept.
Jason Denayer was not as quick in the 16th minute. By the time he had twisted to follow Messi's pass, the excellent Luis Suarez was a step ahead. Denayer slid but was nowhere near the ball and Suarez dragged his foot to make the contact clear.
A penalty was given, although Messi was made to wait while VAR checked but there was no sign of tension. His chip down the middle was exquisite.
Lyon improved and Moussa Dembele's shot needed a strong block from Clement Lenglet before Lopes collided with Coutinho and had to be replaced, in tears, in the 34th minute by Mathieu Gorgelin.
That was not before Barca had scored a second as the faultless Arthur Melo played an angled pass into Suarez, who wriggled clear. With only Lopes to beat, he tapped across for Coutinho, who had an open net.
Suarez let the ball run through his, and Marcelo's, legs while Messi twice could have added a third, once before half-time when he was denied from the angle, and once shortly after, when Fernando Marcal cleared his lifted finish off the line.
Lyon looked dead and buried but found a way back in just before the hour. It came from a corner, which Barca three times failed to clear. Amid the scramble, Tousart had time to chest and volley into the corner.
For 10 minutes, Barcelona were edgy but while Fekir lashed over, Lyon failed to step forward. Their momentum subsided and Messi finished them off in a late flurry.
First, his dummy sent Denayer and Marcelo flying and his shot was too strong for the weak hand of Gorgelin. Then, he twice tore away on the counter-attack, finding Pique at the back post and finally Dembele, who made it five.