Messi too hot for Lyon as Barca reach quarters

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Lyon in the Champions League game against Lyon on Wednesday. AFP

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 to reach the Champions League quarterfinals.

After Ronaldo's treble on Tuesday for Juventus sent Atletico Madrid packing in Turin, Messi delivered his own symphony on Wednesday 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.

"Cristiano yesterday was impressive," Messi said afterwards. "It was a big surprise because I thought Atletico would be stronger but Cristiano had a magical night."

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 them off before half-time.

Yet Lucas Tousart's volley left Lyon one goal away from putting Barcelona out, only for Messi to take charge again. 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.

"When he is at that kind of level, he is almost unstoppable," Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said. "We did what we could."

Barcelona 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 was 2010 and after defeats for Atletico and Real Madrid, it was up to Barca to avert a first Spanish blackout 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. The Brazilian was bright, enjoying one of his best performances in weeks.

Messi struck the first goal with an exquisite chip down the middle off a penalty awarded after a foul on Luis Suarez. 

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.

Lyon looked dead and buried but found a way back in. 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 Nabil 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, picking out Pique at the back post and finally Dembele, who made it five.

 

 

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Messi too hot for Lyon as Barca reach quarters

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