Barcelona (6) 5 - 2 (3) Lyon

Lyon utterly capitulated to rampant Barcelona in the first half of this epic Champions League encounter, but the French side managed to salvage pride in the second period as the Blaugrana tailed off. That isn't to take away too much from the hosts, though; their opening 43 minutes of play were relentlessly effective and mesmerizingly beautiful in equal measure; the kind of play for which Barcelona have become famous, albeit in doses all too small to be called consistent. Still, it was clear from the outset that the home fans were to be in for a treat. As early as the ninth minute Lionel Messi had set up Thierry Henry for a half-chance, but what was really of note was Barcelona's midfield dominance. Indeed, the likes of Jeremy Toulalan were struggling to make an impact, and a lack of passing options were presenting themselves to Lyon, resulting in every clearance, near enough, being an aimless punt. When Fabio Grosso attempted a considered pass into midfield in the 14th minute, in fact, he found only Andres Iniesta, whose through ball to Samuel Eto'o should have been put away. However, the Cameroonian shot over. Lyon were having immense trouble getting out of their own half, but one effort saw Juninho - in a rare moment of possession - dink the ball over the top for Karim Benzema, but the forward's finish was as poor as Eto'o's. Still, the first half was all about Barca, and it was no surprise when in the 24th minute they took the lead. With Jean-Alain Boumsong woefully positioned, Rafael Marquez's long ball forward found Thierry Henry onside to go one-on-one with Hugo Lloris and bury a low finish. Two minutes later 'Titi' Henry doubled the advantage. This time the strike was prettier; great work from Xavi put Henry through just ahead of the again-dozing Boumsong, although the defender may feel that Henry was offside this time. No flag went up, though, and Henry was left to make a fine finish. Lyon were all at sea, with even Yaya Toure having the run of the attacking midfield for Barcelona, such was the visitors' ineffectiveness. Juninho's next contribution was to get a yellow card; Lionel Messi's was to score. Yes, the Argentine had been quiet, but in one glorious moment he showed just why he is carving out a reputation as a Ballon d'Or winner-in-waiting. Seizing the ball on the right, he left three defenders for dead, played the one-two with Eto'o in the box, and then passed the ball past the agog Lloris for the 3-0. The onslaught did not end there. Samuel Eto'o put his recent duck behind him to slam home a convincing finish after Cris - previously one of the more solid stoppers - contrived to miss Henry's cross from the left. Lyon could have shriveled up and died, but to their credit a lifeline of sorts came courtesy of Jean-Il Makoun seconds before the break with an excellent, albeit unmarked, header from Juninho's far-post corner. Nobody saw it coming but it was game on right after the interval as Juninho himself put his poor start behind him to get on the scoresheet. Delgado, with practically his first action of the game, fought Iniesta off on the right and cut back a low cross; Karim Benzema showed maturity and wisdom to dummy for the onrushing Juninho to bury it. Suddenly Barcelona were worried - surely they weren't going to throw it away? When Karim Benzema was just a mere inch offside when breaking down the left the fans wondered if the comeback was coming. In fact, though, for all Lyon's improvement in the midfield, Barcelona were to enjoy the bulk of the chances heading up to the hour mark, with Cris pulling off a great block to prevent Dani Alves from converting a Messi cross, and Henry and Xavi coming close soon after. Lyon, while showing plenty of spirit, lacked finesse, and their persistent fouling saw cards for Grosso and Makoun as the ending stages approached. But with ten minutes to go their hopes were so nearly raised as Ederson and Toulalan found Benzema unmarked on the edge of the box with an angled shot just waiting to be taken. Inexplicably, the youngster blasted over, and with the ball went his side's hopes of a fightback. The Blaugrana knew the game was now theirs as they made some late substitutions, and the game ended with the unhappy sight of Juninho - the man who seemed set to spark a comeback - being sent off for a second bookable offense, namely for a pointless act of dissent. Barcelona, then, held on convincingly for the win - and in fact built on it. Right at the death substitute Seydou Keita took advantage of Hugo Lloris' decision to come off his line to meet a lovely Xavi through ball to finish after taking it round the 'keeper. So, five goals to Barcelona about sums up their attacking brilliance on the night, and while Pep Guardiola will worry about this side's propensity towards defensive errors, they absolutely outclassed Lyon, especially in midfield, and are worthy last eight contenders.


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