≡ Menu

Barcelona cruise in Champions League

 Four goals in 18 first-half minutes and a superb individual display from Thierry Henry helped Barcelona into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Olympique Lyonnais despite a defiant performance from the French champions.

Henry, who had worked with Lyon coach Claude Puel at Monaco, put the home team in front in the 25th minute and added another composed finish two minutes later as the visitors were punished for lapses in concentration. After Lionel Messi made it 3-0, Henry set up Samuel Eto’o to thump in a fourth, although Lyon – beaten in the first knockout round for the third year in a row – refused to concede defeat, Jean II Makoun and Juninho Pernambucano restoring respectability to the scoreline with strikes either side of half-time. The latter was sent off in stoppage time, however, and appropriately Barcelona had the last word as substitute Seydou Keita scored a fifth in added time.

The opening goals had carried plenty of warning but the roars which greeted them signified both joy and relief because Puel’s side had played with enthusiasm to keep Barça at bay. After the creativity of Andrés Iniesta had given Xavi Hernández and Eto’o glimpses of Hugo Lloris’s goal, once again it was Henry – author of the vital headed equaliser in the first leg – who unlocked the away defence. The opener bore the creative hallmark of Rafael Márquez. Lyon, having been encamped in their penalty area for several minutes, suddenly lost their defensive shape and surged forward. Márquez won a loose ball and instantly angled a clever chipped pass over Cris and Jean-Alain Boumsong for Henry to streak through and slide past the exposed Lloris. Two minutes later Xavi spotted the Frenchman alone and in line with the Lyon back four; speed of thought and pass left Henry to supply another assured finish. Suddenly Barça’s path to the quarter-finals looked clear.

Three more goals arrived before the break, with Messi netting in the 40th minute after cutting in from the right to play a clever one-two with Eto’o and curl in a fine left-foot finish. Henry then provided a low square pass that Cris failed to intercept and Eto’o drilled an unstoppable drive into the top corner. A shell-shocked Lyon at least ended a chastening first half on a positive note, Makoun nodding in Juninho’s right-wing corner to give the Ligue 1 leaders a small note of cheer as they headed down the tunnel.

Within three minutes of the restart, the visitors’ toe in the tie had become a foothold, Márquez inadvertently diverting César Delgado’s cross for Juninho to slot in his fourth UEFA Champions League goal against Barça. Inevitably Henry delivered the response, advancing on to Gerard Piqué’s excellent pass and forcing a fine save from Lloris that kept his team’s flickering hopes alive. The Liga frontrunners followed Josep Guardiola’s instructions to attack for 90 minutes to the letter, allowing Lyon to keep dreaming of an unlikely comeback, an ambition that only finally faded when Karim Benzema fired over with seven minutes left. Juninho collected a second yellow card in the 91st minute and Keita subsequently completed the scoring from another Xavi pass to confirm Barça’s place in the 20 March draw.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment