Lionel Messi scored twice and created two more as Barcelona came through a second half scare to hammer Lyon 5-1 and advance to the Champions League quarter-finals.
But it wasn’t a totally convincing performance from the Catalans, with the midfield providing particular cause for concern in the second half.
Let’s check out all the player performances with our full match ratings.
BARCELONA STARTING XI (4-4-2)
Ter Stegen 6. Made a good save to repel a mishit cross from Mendy and had little else to do other than stop a late free-kick.
Roberto 5. Not his best performance. Often looked vulnerable defensively and had a few missteps coming forward.
Pique 8. Another commanding performance, doing well against dangerous Dembele and getting forward to score.
Lenglet 7. Made a great block from Dembele in the first half and helped hold the fort when Lyon got on top.
Alba 7. Outstanding in the first half and one of the few Barca players who showed drive during their flat patch in the second.
Rakitic 6. Had an early shot blocked and sent another over the bar, but this was a so-so, tired-looking performance.
Busquets 5. Occasionally ponderous and sometimes caught out of position, he is starting to become a weak link.
Arthur 6. Pulled the strings expertly in midfield during Barca’s fast start but lost control later on and was replaced.
Messi 8. Opened the scoring from the spot and wrapped up the tie with a second goal before teeing up Pique and Dembele.
Suarez 7. Brilliant in the first half, winning the early spot-kick and brilliantly teeing up Coutinho for the second. Quieter after that.
Coutinho 7. First half was his best performance for ages, including a tap-in for the second goal, but he faded badly.
Dembele 7. Came on for Coutinho and provided a spark at a time it was badly needed, netting the fifth.
Vidal 7. Added for the final 15 minutes to bring some much-needed bite into midfield and did that enforcer’s job well.
Semedo 6. Introduced near the end to replace Roberto and looked sharp and lively, although Lyon were done by then.
LYON STARTING XI (5-3-2)
Lopes 7. Made an excellent stop from Messi and a brave save at Coutinho’s feet, injuring himself in the process and coming off.
Denayer 5. Foolishly fouled Suarez for the breakthrough penalty and regularly looked on the verge of a costly error.
Marcelo 6. Tried to stick tight to Suarez but was given the runaround by the Uruguayan, although he improved after the break.
Marcal 7. Tasked with shackling Messi and did a decent job, including a goalline clearance from the Argentine.
Dubois 5. Desperately struggled to contain the marauding runs of Alba and offered little threat coming forward.
Ndombele 7. Confident and composed in midfield. Perhaps sometimes too casual, but clearly a classy player.
Tousart 6. Often bypassed in the centre of the pitch but grabbed the goal to give his team hope and gained confidence.
Mendy 6. Patrolled the left flank and made some menacing runs, but his delivery was wayward. Injured later on.
Fekir 6. Struggled to influence the action in the first half but gradually imposed himself, showing some slick touches
Depay 6. Linked play well at times and always looked busy, playing a role in his team’s recovery before being replaced.
Dembele 7. Came close with a deflected first half strike and often threatened with powerful running. A real hot prospect.
Gorgelin 6. Sub keeper introduced early after Lopes was injured. Got a hand to Messi’s decisive goal but not strong enough.
Traore 5. Replaced Depay for the final 20 minutes and unfortunate to come on at a time his team lost the initiative.
Cornet 5. Late sub for the injured Mendy, with little opportunity make an impact.
The chief architect of the win was Sadio Mane, who scored a brilliant opening goal to put his side in control of the game and then rounded off the evening by heading the clincher.
Here’s a closer look at the Liverpool No10’s display.
Goals – 2
Shots – 2
Dribbles – 5
Pass Accuracy – 73%
Key Passes – 1
Ball recoveries – 6
Mane has been in a rich vein of form and it showed the way he scored his first goal, making the charging Manuel Neuer look foolish as he turned the Bayern goalkeeper with ease before clipping in a delightful finish.
He was involved in a few strong challenges in midfield, perhaps getting lucky to not receive a booking but showing the commitment and energy to help his side protect their away goal. Then he rounded off a great night with his second goal.
Movement in attack
Mane kept timing his runs to perfection. His first goal came about because of a sublime run behind Bayern’s back line, the second down to excellent movement, and there were more moments where his runs bought him space in attack.
That opening goal was superb. The imagination and awareness to realize the chip was not only on but arguably the best option, and the ability to pull it off, were a mark of true class. And the diving header for his second wasn’t shabby, either.
Perhaps as a result of how committed he was to the press, Mane was guilty of a few overzealous tackles, and he could easily have been booked more than once. Though it didn’t end up causing Liverpool any problems on the night, in another game that sort of play could end up leaving his side a man down, and shorn of a player who, on form, has been their best attacking player this season.
Away from home against one of Europe’s traditional powerhouses, though Liverpool qualify for that category themselves, Mane showed just how good he can be. His first goal was brilliant, a display of exquisite skill and execution.
He should have had a hat-trick, as Mohamed Salah rather selfishly went for goal when Mane was free for a tap-in – though the Egyptian’s wonderful assist for Mane’s second no doubt made up for that. But no bother. Mane’s put his side into the Champions League’s last-eight.
RATING – 9/10
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.
Philippe Coutinho has scored his first goal in league or European competition since October 2018.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 13, 2019
Put on a plate for him. 🍽 pic.twitter.com/cgLyqWbuHH
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.