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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Player ratings as Lionel Messi earns an 8 for helping Barcelona power past Lyon

Andy West 14/03/2019
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Lionel Messi

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.

SUBS

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.

SUBS

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.

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Sadio Mane class comes to fore in another famous Liverpool win in the Champions League

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Sadio Mane was the hero of the night.

Liverpool got another famous European win on Wednesday night as they rolled up to Bayern Munich‘s home stadium and walked away with a 3-1 win to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals.

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.

KEY STATS

Goals – 2

Shots – 2

Dribbles – 5

Pass Accuracy – 73%

Key Passes – 1

Ball recoveries – 6

30-SECOND REPORT

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.

GOT RIGHT

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.

Finishing

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.

GOT WRONG

Tackling

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.

VERDICT

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

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