In a thrilling night at the Camp Nou, Barcelona smashed Lyon 5-1 in the Champions League.
The win puts them through to the quarter-finals for the 12th successive season. Bar a brief spell in the second half, the Blaugrana were in control from start to finish. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Leo Messi
What more can you say about this man? A sublime panenka to open the scoring, giving the Blaugrana a much-needed lead. After that he went about his business playing absurd passes as per usual. Then when Lyon managed to pull it back to 2-1, it was Messi who put his foot down on the neck of the French side by stacking three goals onto the French side inside 8 minutes.
First he controlled a Sergio Busquets pass and then weaved in and out, dumping Lyon defenders onto the ground with absurd ease before finding the corner (via the palms of the goalkeeper) with his weak foot. Then he led a couple of outrageous counter-attacks, the first one he drove into his customary half-space channel and when Tanguy Ndombele caught up with him, a quick stutter created enough space for Messi to lift a gorgeous cross in for Gerard Piqué to make it 4-1.
Finally he led a classic counter, rampaging into space ahead of the Lyon defence which converged on his location, petrified of what he was going to do. Well, Messi did the smart thing and fed it wide with perfect weight for Ousmane Dembélé to back the fifth. Two magical goals and two incisive assists, the perfect summation of just why he is the best player in the world, bar none.
Lionel Messi is the only player in this season’s #UCL to be directly involved in 10+ goals:
⚽️ 8 goals
🅰️ 3 assists
Leading the way in Europe again. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/wtNf7F1SeN
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 13, 2019
Loser: Jason Denayer
Jason Denayer was a disappointment at Manchester City, never really looking capable of living up to his immense potential. He’s improved and been good at Lyon, and was absolutely titanic in the first leg. He was unrecognisable from the man who so often looked rash and mistake-prone in Manchester.
Then tonight, well, he lasted 15 minutes before doing anything enormously stupid. But sure enough, 17 minutes in, he dove in after Luis Suárez as the Uruguayan had been released by a classic one-two. He even realised his own mistake and tried to pull out, but it was too late against an operator as canny as Suárez. Penalty conceded, Barcelona scored, and instantly Lyon were on the back foot.
What more can you say about Arthur? Signed for €30m, which in this market is basically nothing, he joined in the summer and despite being just 21-years-old has looked the most Xavi-type of player the Camp Nou has seen since Xavi himself was in his pomp.
Arthur misplaced just ONE pass vs. Lyon:
• 73 minutes
• 72 attempted
• 71 completed
98.6% pass accuracy. 🤤 pic.twitter.com/SoqvBIEjFg
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 13, 2019
Arthur has been used cautiously by Ernesto Valverde this season, with the coach not wanting to overburden the player (most who join European sides from Brazilian ones in the summer often struggle in the second half of the season due to converting from an annual calendar to a September-May one) but in the Champions League he has come to life.
Arthur was spectacular in the group stages, dominating away to Spurs, Inter, etc. – and he was badly missed in the first leg as Barcelona didn’t control the game as much as they wanted to. But here at home he was at his resplendent best, completing 98.6% of his passes and constantly keeping the Blaugrana on the attack (as well as registering one hell of a pre-assist for Coutinho’s goal). He absolutely dominated the game and if Barcelona are going to win the Champions League, you can bet this brilliant Brazilian will play a key role.
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Loser: Anthony Lopes
You have to feel for Lopes. He was sensational in the first leg, putting in an enormous shot-stopping display as Lyon repeatedly thwarted the Blaugrana. And he started the second leg in the same form, palming away a Messi effort and looking very assured inbetween the sticks.
But then he hurt himself racing out to block Philippe Coutinho from scoring. The collision led to him being sprawled out on the turf for five solid minutes as medical staff attended to him. He bravely (or foolishly) chose to play on and even pulled off a couple of impressive saves, but after half an hour he had to be withdrawn in tears. Poor guy.
Winner: Clement Lenglet
In what was a bad moment for Lyon, the best Frenchman on the field was in Barcelona colours. Clement Lenglet signed for the Blaugrana this summer under little fanfare, but he has stepped up in a big bad way given Samuel Umtiti’s injury problems this season and tonight was one of his most colossal displays yet.
Lenglet isn’t a flashy defender but he is almost absurdly solid. He has no major flaws in his game, which makes him such a sturdy choice to play at the heart of what can be a chaotic back-line. He tackles, he intercepts, he heads clear, and he possesses a mean pass out from the back, able to split lines of the opponent’s press and get the ball to dangerous areas.
Umtiti’s going to have to fight to get back into the side!
Winner: Ousmane Dembélé
Speaking of Frenchmen in Blaugrana, Ousmane Dembélé started this game on the bench because he wasn’t 100% fit. His replacement Coutinho scored, and played fairly well. One could have reasonably interpreted this as bad for Dembélé, that the club’s most expensive ever-signing would now find his way back into the side.
Except as he nearly always does, Coutinho’s influence faded as the match wore on. His runs became more obvious, his passes overly intricate… and when Lyon pulled themselves back into the match Ernesto Valverde sent for Dembélé and WOOSH, suddenly it was like the handbrake had been taken off and Barcelona began shooting forward on the break.
Dembélé came on after 70 minutes, and by 86 minutes the match was over. The speed Dembélé brought to the team was beyond his own individual speed, although that was tremendous, but with him on the field Lyon became more aware of Barcelona’s counter-attacks but could do nothing to contain their rocketman. That Dembélé scored the fifth was so fitting. He’s essential.