Philippe Coutinho ends Barcelona goal drought in win over Lyon, but question marks remain

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Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho scored his first goal for Barcelona in La Liga or the Champions League since October last year as they beat Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday night.

Lionel Messi‘s ‘Panenka’ from the spot opened the scoring at Camp Nou in the 17th minute after Luis Suarez hit the deck. The Uruguayan then set up Coutinho for a tap-in with 31 minutes played as the Catalans progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Lyon pulled a goal back through Lucas Tousart just before the hour mark but Messi then settled the tie with an excellent third before Gerard Pique and substitute Ousmane Dembele both got forward during two separate breaks and added a fourth and fifth for good measure.

Here, we analyse Coutinho’s performance.

STATS

Goals – 1

Shots – 4

Shots on target – 2

Key passes – 2

Pass accuracy – 89.7%

Touches – 56

Dribbles – 2

Dispossessed – 2

30-SECOND REPORT

Dembele was fit enough to make the match-day squad for this fixture, but Ernesto Valverde sprung a surprise by leaving him on the bench and persisting with the out-of-form Coutinho instead. A few sloppy moments at the start of the game suggested that may have been a mistake, but Barca as a whole were irresistible and seemed destined for victory.

The Brazilian then scored a rare goal, benefiting from Suarez’s excellent play to score into an empty net. The strike seemed to give the attacking midfielder a much-needed boost in confidence but that was short-lived. As Barcelona grew complacent with a two-goal cushion, Lyon took the initiative and Coutinho was once again confined to a peripheral role, rarely affecting proceedings until he was substituted in the 69th minute with the tie in the balance.

GOT RIGHT

Movement

Coutinho consistently made the right runs. With Messi dropping deep effect play, he naturally attracted Lyon’s defenders and Coutinho took advantage by making darting runs in behind. That saw him get on the end Pique’s ball forward only for keeper Anthony Lopes to intervene.

His movement also earned him an opportunity in the second half but having rounded substitute keeper Mathieu Gorgelin, he could only find the side netting from a narrow angle. He was also alert and in the right area to help himself to a comfortable goal in the first half, slotting Suarez’s pass into an empty net.

GOT WRONG

Slowed play down

While the likes of Suarez, Messi and even Arthur at times, linked up in the final third seamlessly, Coutinho was guilty of not being on the same wavelength at times. First-time passes, lay-offs and dummies featured heavily in Barca’s attacking play but the Brazilian tended to dwell on the ball.

It was a sign of a player lacking in confidence. He received possession in great positions but – particularly during the first half an hour – he didn’t make the most of promising scenarios, even somehow going away from goal at times.

VERDICT

There were glimpses of the player Barca were promised when they signed him from Liverpool in January 2018 and his goal would’ve done him some good as well. However, he did little to dispel the feeling that he simply doesn’t fit in at the club. He struggled to get on the same page as his team-mates and soon retreated into his shell.

6/10

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