10-man Manchester City twice fell foul of the video-assistant referee after Sergio Aguero’s opener had been given the green light, but returning hero Leroy Sane came back to haunt Schalke with a sensational free-kick in a valuable 3-2 victory during the Champions League’s round of 16.
The Premier League leaders took advantage of woeful defending by the Bundesliga’s 14th best in the 19th minute, Spain playmaker David Silva making the most of a mix-up by slipping in the Argentina hit man after a mix-up between goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann and Senegal centre-back Salif Sane. A colossal header from Aymeric Laporte in previous play then had to be allowed on replay, thus rewarding the visitors’ dominant start.
Thoughts of a simple first-leg victory dissipated by half-time at VELTINS-Arena. Argentina centre-back Nicolas Otamendi’s handball and Brazil anchorman Fernandinho’s tug on Sane were punished from 12 yards by ex-Spurs midfielder Bentaleb.
Otamendi would go on to be dismissed for a second booking. The stage was then set for substitute Sane, a Schalke youth product, to smash in a thunderous 30-yard free-kick on 85 minutes.
England forward Raheem Sterling then put the seal on things, latching onto Brazil No1’s Ederson delightful ball from deep and rolling it home.
Here are the player ratings:
Ralf Fahrmann 5: The skipper’s poor pass belied his experience, allowing Aguero in to score. Not a great deal else to do.
Daniel Caligiuri 7: Influential display from the right wing-back. Shot earned first penalty and kept Sterling pretty quiet.
Jeffrey Bruma 6: Wolfsburg loanee was not unduly tested by possession-heavy City. Made smart second-half interception.
Salif Sane 7: Memorable display. Played part in poor opener, then was felled by Fernandinho. Stood up tall, throughout.
Matija Nastasic 6: Former City defender made one fine block on De Bruyne. Helped Schalke’s shape well, frustrating Aguero.
Bastian Oczipka 6: The 30-year-old was happy to see City rotate the ball without much desire to get in behind.
Weston McKennie 7: Dynamic United States international showed versatility by going out wide when shape changed to 4-1-4-1.
Suat Serdar 6: Kept discipline well and declined to chase the ball, which is what City wanted. Able deputy to Bentaleb et al.
Nabil Bentaleb 8: Was bypassed in open play, but showed nerves of steel to twice slot spot-kicks past Ederson.
Hamza Mendyl 6: Morocco international ran himself into the ground, covering the gaps behind the wing-backs. Key role.
Mark Uth 6: City starved Schalke of the ball, meaning Uth was a bystander. To his credit, this didn’t stop him shutting down.
Guido Burgstaller 6: Required treatment after collision with Kompany.
Steven Skrzybski N/A: Saw one promising shot blocked.
Amine Harit N/A: Barely got involved.
MANCHESTER CITY (3-2-4-1)
Ederson 6: Brazil goalkeeper was only seen when picking the ball out of his net for Bentaleb’s penalties.
Kyle Walker 6: Moved to a three-man defence saw Walker reprise his England role. No great involvement.
Nicolas Otamendi 4: Otamendi will want to forget this night. Handball appeared harsh, as was his second booking.
Aymeric Laporte 7: Was at hulking best in build-up to the opener. Also relished building from the back.
Fernandinho 6: Only made the lightest of touches on Sane’s hips, but couldn’t really complain.
Ilkay Gundogan 7: Warm reception for ex-Borussia Dortmund midfielder. Peerless in possession.
Bernardo Silva 6: Lashed narrowly over in the second half. Put in a patient performance against a stacked defence.
Kevin De Bruyne 7: Valuable minutes recorded as Belgium playmaker continues comeback from latest injury.
David Silva 7: Showed expert reading of play to spark the opener. Taken off after Otamendi’s dismissal.
Raheem Sterling 7: 15th goal of another productive season probably won this tie for City.
Sergio Aguero 6: Didn’t do a great deal else other than score. But that’s what he’s paid for.
Vincent Kompany 6: Thrown on for a 15th display of injury strewn season when Otamendi marched off.
Leroy Sane N/A: Unbelievable goal from the player who used to call Schalke home. Refused to celebrate.
Oleksandr Zinchenko N/A: Wound down the clock.
Lionel Messi was predictably a central figure but the little magician couldn’t quite weave his magic in France. The hosts posed a threat on the break but Barcelona were able to cope.
It was another poor European night away from home for Luiz Suarez while Ousmane Dembele complemented Messi well before his bewildering substitution in the second half.
The Catalans will be disappointed to come away from Lyon without an away goal given the kind of chances they squandered.
It does however set up an enticing second leg back at Camp Nou in three weeks’ time.
LYON LEAVE MESSI OPEN
Sure, Barcelona set up in a 4-3-3 formation with Messi’s name appearing on the right flank but it’s a poorly kept secret that he doesn’t actually operate out wide.
The Argentine consistently pops up centrally in the final third and Bruno Genesio would’ve been well aware of that especially since he spent his Saturday night watching the Catalans’ 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid at Camp Nou.
Yet, Messi was inexplicably afforded far too much space to get on the ball and create chances. Lyon lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Memphis Depay playing off Moussa Dembele in Nabil Fekir’s absence. That may have been in an effort to maintain a more compact shape but Barca’s lack of width down the right meant the midfielder deployed on the left was perhaps wasted.
Tanguy Ndombele had a good game but he and Houssem Aouar were busy competing with the trio of Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic in midfield while Messi always had space to receive the ball and turn.
The Blaugrana talisman was a little out of sorts – as he was over the weekend as well – and failed to take advantage of the freedom he enjoyed, particularly in the first half.
SUAREZ’S DROUGHT AWAY IN EUROPE
It’s utterly baffling but Luis Suarez, one of Europe’s elite strikers, hasn’t scored an away goal in the Champions League since he hit the back of the net against Roma back in 2015. It’s now over 24 hours since the Uruguayan got on the scoresheet on the road in Europe.
He failed to register a single shot – or key pass – in the first half at the Groupama Stadium. That changed in the second period but the result was still disappointing.
When receiving the ball 12 yards from goal, he was like a deer caught in the headlights. He wrestled with the option to lay the ball off for the onrushing Messi or pull the trigger on the turn. He hesitated for too long and ended up awkwardly stabbing it towards goal with the defender and keeper smothering his effort.
Then an excellent cut-back from Jordi Alba found him in acres of space inside the box 20 minutes from time but he fired a left-footed effort wide.
24h - As of the 22nd minute of tonight's game against Lyon, Luis Suarez has gone a full day of game time (1440 minutes) without scoring away from home in the Champions League, last netting against Roma in September 2015. Strange. pic.twitter.com/7mzz0w03AO— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 19, 2019
We’ve already touched on how Genesio’s set-up saw Lyon afford Messi too much room but his decision to start Maxwel Cornet on the bench was curious as well. Yes, Martin Terrier who played in his stead did force Marc-Andre ter Stegen into an outstanding save in the first half but he didn’t really threaten down that left flank.
Pace on the break was the biggest weapon in Lyon’s armour against Barca but Cornet’s absence from the starting line-up meant that was mitigated and Nelson Semedo – whose defending can be exposed at times – was afforded a comfortable night.
Meanwhile, Ernesto Valverde’s substitution of Dembele in the 67th minute was questionable as well. The Frenchman had three key passes and four shots during his time on the pitch.
Messi benefited from his presence as well and looked frustrated once he was hooked and the Lyon defence weren’t stretched as much.
It may be seen as a point very much earned for the French side in the first leg of this round-of-16 Champions League clash, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen played his part with two fine stops to keep Barca in it – his stunning one-handed palm onto the bar from Martin Terrier’s driving effort particularly impressive.
At the other end Anthony Lopes was similarly busy, even if the away side’s attackers were far from their flamboyant best.
Here, we take a closer look at one of them, Ousmane Dembele, who was in the thick of the action but a little thin on quality.
Goals – 0
Assists – 0
Shots – 4
Shots on target – 1
Touches – 62
Key passes – 3
Pass accuracy – 78.1 %
Crosses – 5
Fouled – 4
Take Ernesto Valverde’s decision to withdraw winger Dembele with 23 minutes to play any way you like. In many ways, the young Frenchman was Barcelona’s most threatening player on the pitch.
Another way of looking at it was he was erratic and wasteful with the ball when he had it, which was often. He is just coming back from injury, this was his third game and he hadn’t completed 90 minutes in the previous two, so patience should be preached.
Always a threat – Even if he’s far from his best, Dembele can worry any defence with his devious trickery and unpredictability. Barca constantly looked to him as an outlet to spark attacks in a first leg that was surprisingly open from the very first whistle.
Even though he was some way short of his best form shown throughout much of this season, he has an excuse. What could Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez’s explanations be?
End product – The 21-year-old has regularly been criticised for sloppiness in his early Blaugrana days, yet he has massively cut out the errors and stepped up the consistency prior to this spell on the sidelines.
In that regard, it was disappointing here to see him so clueless when in the final third. Lyon’s defence closed him down at every occasion, but three shots off target from four attempts and no accurate crosses from five attempted are worrying statistics.
Too often here he looked like the Dembele of old. Aimlessly running down blind alleys and bereft of quality when needed.
However, he can’t be close to being 100-per-cent fully fit yet, so expectation must be tempered. He was hardly the only Barca player in luminous yellow off colour.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com