Talking points as Barcelona storm past Lyon but mid-game wobble is a concern

Andy West 14/03/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

The 5-1 scoreline would make you think that Barcelona breezed through with a comfortable thrashing of hapless Lyon on Wednesday night, but that is a very misleading picture from an eventful night at the Camp Nou.

True, Barca started and finished strong and in the end they had too much for the French side, but the middle phase of the game was a completely different matter as Lyon pulled back to 2-1 and regularly threatened to find an equaliser which could have sent them through.

Let’s pick the pieces out of a night which showed plenty of promise for Barca – but which should also serve as a serious warning.

Barca sparkle…but then suffer

For the opening half hour, Barca were irresistible. They played with great intensity and focus, pushing Lyon onto the back foot with a powerful and composed performance, maintaining a high tempo both with and without the ball and deservedly moving into a two-goal lead.

Then…they stopped. The final stages of the first half saw the home side lapse into coasting mode, lacking their previous seriousness and seeming to think they could stroll through the remainder of the game with a series of fancy flicks and tricks.

They were very wrong. Lyon took advantage of Barca’s relaxation to seize the initiative, finishing the first half strongly and starting the second in the same way. It was no surprise when they pulled back a goal through Lucas Tousart, and suddenly the tie was on a knife-edge.

In the end the hosts prevailed after Messi conjured a superb second goal to restore the two-goal cushion and then teed up Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele to add another couple of goals and some gloss to the scoreline, but they should not allow themselves to be deceived by the eventually comfortable winning margin. For around half an hour they were second best by a long way and they could have easily been punished. From now on, only maximum focus will do – all the time.

Coutinho flatters to deceive

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde was without one key player as Dembele was restricted to the bench with a hamstring injury, and he opted to brush aside the wishes of many fans and pundits by keeping faith with out-of-form Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian international has desperately struggled this season, but Valverde has been determined to stick with his costly recruit despite also having the option of turning to battle-hardened Arturo Vidal, rising star Carles Alena or hard-working winger Malcom.

Finally, though, Coutinho justified the faith of his manager by delivering a livewire first-half performance which was by far his best for a long time. He was bright from the opening whistle, playing a central role in dangerous attacks on three occasions in the opening seven minutes. And although it was a simple tap-in following fabulous work from Luis Suarez, getting his name on the scoresheet will have been a welcome boost to Coutinho’s confidence.

However, he then faded dramatically as Barca lost control of the game. Suddenly, he reverted to the hesitant and clumsy player who has prompted great frustration throughout the majority of the season, and in the end it was quite a relief when he was replaced by Dembele. So although he took a couple of big steps in the right direction, they were followed by one significant step backwards…and the doubts remain.

Sympathy for Lyon’s Lopes

Lyon’s exit drew particular sympathy for their goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, who was forced off through injury midway through the opening half after coming off worse for wear in a collision with Coutinho as he made a brave save at the Brazilian’s feet.

Lopes received lengthy treatment and it seemed inevitable that he would have to be replaced straight away, but he battled stoically back to his feet and was determined to continue, despite looking extremely groggy to say the least.

A few minutes later he was beaten by the second goal – which no keeper would have been able to prevent – and Lyon boss Bruno Genesio, probably later than he should, decided to take no further chances with his keeper’s health and introduced substitute keeper Mathieu Gorgelin. Lopes was reduced to tears as he left the field to heartfelt hugs from his team-mates and warm applause from the Barca crowd.

And the admiration he elicited was also spread more widely across his talented team-mates, many of whom showed they could have big futures ahead of them. Fast and powerful striker Moussa Dembele and classy midfielder Tanguy Ndombele look particularly bright prospects, and it would be no surprise to see them feature in big-money summer transfers.

Most popular

Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool: Ratings as Sadio Mane delivers and Virgil van Dijk is imperial

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Outstanding Liverpool roared into the Champions League quarter-finals with a mature 3-1 away victory at fellow heavyweights Bayern Munich.

The first goal of a tense tie came before half time at Allianz Arena as Senegal forward Sadio Mane delightfully punished Germany No1 Manuel Neuer’s impetuous charge and slotted into an open goal. The score was levelled on the night, however, soon after when Cameroon defender Joel Matip sliced into his own net.

Last season’s beaten finalists were then imperious after the break and gained double reward. Netherlands centre-back Virgil van Dijk produced a towering header on 69 minutes and Mane nodded in Egypt forward Mohamed Salah’s enticing cross soon after to emphatically kill the two-legged contest.

Here are the Reds player ratings:

LIVERPOOL (4-3-3)

Alisson 6: Brazil No1 would have been surprised by how little he had to do. Faced two shots on target.

Trent Alexander-Arnold 7: Pinged several delightful cross-field balls. Faced down Ribery and Coman. What a prospect.

Joel Matip 5: Accident waiting to happen. Darts up field must stop. Scored own goal he had threatened in first leg.

Virgil van Dijk 8: Another world-class display. Quietened Lewandowski and headed in fourth goal of 2018/19.

Andrew Robertson 7: Gnabry threatened to have his number again, but fine recovery spoke volumes. Banned for next game, though.

Georginio Wijnaldum 6: Netherlands international kept it simple and this is exactly what Liverpool needed on night.

Jordan Henderson 5: Man who was selected ahead of Fabinho made just seven touches before injury struck him down.

James Milner 7: Solid job from Liverpool’s veteran midfielder. Always an available option on the left flank.

Mohamed Salah 7: Mixed bag. Made up for egregious earlier greed by producing perfect centre for Mane’s header.

Roberto Firmino 6: Ex-Wolfsburg forward ran himself into the ground, at detriment of attacking ambitions.

Sadio Mane 9: Utterly brilliant. Punished Neuer and Hummels to become Liverpool’s all-time away scorer in UCL with seven goals.

SUBSTITUTES

Fabinho 7: Liverpool fans got their wish earlier than expected as injury forced his 13th-minute arrival. Consummate run-out followed.

Divock Origi N/A: Ex-Wolfsburg loanee was involved in build-up for Mane’s second on night.

Adam Lallana N/A: Valuable minutes on clock for recovering injury victim.

Most popular

Bayern Munich 1-2 Liverpool: Ratings as Manuel Neuer turns into self-parody, James is poor

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Outstanding Liverpool roared into the Champions League quarter-finals with a mature 3-1 away victory at fellow heavyweights Bayern Munich.

The first goal of a tense tie came before half time at Allianz Arena as Senegal forward Sadio Mane delightfully punished Germany No1 Manuel Neuer’s impetuous charge and slotted into an open goal. The score was levelled on the night, however, soon after when Cameroon defender Joel Matip sliced into his own net.

Last season’s beaten finalists were then imperious after the break and gained double reward. Netherlands centre-back Virgil van Dijk produced a towering header on 69 minutes and Mane nodded in Egypt forward Mohamed Salah’s enticing cross soon after to emphatically kill the two-legged contest.

Here are the Bayern player ratings:

BAYERN (4-2-3-1)

Manuel Neuer 4: Has turned into self-parody. Reckless decision to race out was beautifully punished by Mane.

Rafinha 4: Showed why he is a reserve right-back to the banned Kimmich. Mane enjoyed himself out there.

Niklas Sule 5: Didn’t have the speed to get across and help out Rafinha. Wasn’t at his best.

Mats Hummels 4: Critically outjumped by Van Dijk and Mane. Second half proved Germany set-up right.

David Alaba 5: Helped keep Salah fairly quiet in first half. But when he went on attack, Egyptian ran rampant.

Javi Martinez 7: Bayern’s best performer bossed midfield. But lucky not to see red for Wijnaldum stamp.

Thiago Alcantara 5: Performance mirrored Bayern’s: competitive in first half, invisible in second half. Lacked invention.

Serge Gnabry 5: Threatened to give Robertson another rare off night after teeing up goal. Then disappeared from view.

James Rodriguez 5: On-loan Real Madrid playmaker has had a negligible impact on both legs. Bayern needed him to do better.

Franck Ribery 5: Made a few darts around Alexander-Arnold, but no longer has pace to trouble such an accomplished youngster.

Robert Lewandowski 4: Another for whom Bayern expected much, but received little. Denied goal by Matip’s errant clearance.

SUBSTITUTES

Kingsley Coman 5: Did not improve on countryman Ribery’s paltry efforts.

Leon Goretzka 5: Greater attacking edge was not witnessed.

Renato Sanches N/A: Youngster represented desperate last throw of the dice.

Most popular