Lionel Messi lead the way with two goals and two assists as Barcelona reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in style by thrashing Olympique Lyonnais 5-1 at home on Wednesday and advancing by the same scoreline on aggregate.
Barca captain Messi opened the scoring with a “Panenka” penalty chipped straight down the middle in the 17th minute after Luis Suarez was fouled in the area, putting the home side ahead in the tie after a goalless first leg in France.
Suarez then rounded Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes to lay on a perfect pass for the unmarked Philippe Coutinho to nudge into an open net and double Barca’s lead, although Lyon hauled themselves back into contention with a second-half strike from Lucas Tousart.
Messi soon killed off any hopes of an unlikely comeback from the French side, however, carving his way through the defence to score in the 78th minute before toying with Lyon’s back line twice more and laying off passes for Gerard Pique and then Ousmane Dembele to complete the rout.
“We played a great first half, then from a moment’s distraction it was 2-1 and we had five or 10 delicate minutes,” said Barca striker Suarez.
“We always knew it would be like this. The important thing is that we got the third goal and then we were far calmer.”
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde had warned his side of complacency after Paris St Germain and Real Madrid’s surprise exits, and his words carried more weight after Atletico Madrid were knocked out by Juventus despite a 2-0 first leg win.
His side were in a more vulnerable position as a score draw would have sent them out, and they began the game as if they meant business, with Messi firing an early shot which Lopes had to beat away for a corner.
Lyon’s Lopes had to be taken off injured later in the first half, leaving the field in tears after taking a blow to the face, with Mathieu Gorgelin replacing him and making his Champions League debut.
MESSI SETTLES BARCA NERVES
Barca looked unsettled for a brief period after Tousart’s goal had put Lyon one goal away from knocking the Catalans out, and the home side defended with an air of panic.
But Messi soon eased their nerves, toying with Lyon’s defence before releasing a shot too powerful for Gorgelin to stop.
He continued to torment the visitors, gifting defender Pique a sliding tap-in with a beautiful pass and then setting up substitute Dembele.
Barca reached the last eight of Europe’s elite competition for the 12th consecutive season and will be Spain’s only representatives in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
Lyon goalscorer Tousart had little complaint about the final result and said his side were powerless to deal with Messi.
“We have to concede they were better than us. We weren’t up to the challenge and we were up against a great team, and in the end we were well beaten,” he said.
“There was no anti-Messi plan, and it’s so difficult to defend against a player of his quality. He has instinctive talent.”
Lyon coach Bruno Genesio added: “Tonight Messi was in Champions League mode. He’s a genius and can do things that nobody else can. Sometimes he is just unstoppable.”
Managers take turns to praise “unstoppable” Messi
Barcelona captain Lionel Messi was showered with praise by his coach Ernesto Valverde and losing manager Bruno Genesio after a headline performance in his side’s 5-1 win over Olympique Lyonnais to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Messi opened the scoring at the Nou Camp with an audacious chipped penalty then restored control in the tie after Lyon had pulled a goal back to make it 2-1, hitting a decisive third goal after a trademark dazzling run to shake off four defenders.
The Argentine, who at the start of the season promised to “do everything to bring that beautiful trophy back to the Nou Camp” tore through Lyon’s back line twice more to tee up further goals for Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele.
“We are all psyched up for the Champions League and so is Leo. He produced an outstanding performance tonight, he was incredible,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde told reporters.
Lyon coach Genesio added: “Tonight Messi was in Champions League mode. He’s a genius and can do things that nobody else can. Sometimes he is just unstoppable.”
Messi had seen his record of eight hat-tricks in the Champions League equalled by Cristiano Ronaldo a day earlier in Juventus’ 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid.
The Argentine began the game with serious intent, forcing Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes to beat away a thumping shot in the opening minutes.
He combined fluidly with strike partner Luis Suarez and nearly put the game to bed at the start of the second half when he beat Lyon substitute keeper Mathieu Gorgelin but saw his shot cleared off the goalline.
He had two opportunities to match Ronaldo and complete a treble as Lyon continued to crumble, but chose instead to set up Pique and Dembele.
“We went out to take the game to them from the very start, we moved the ball quickly and we were at our very best,” Messi said.
The five-times world player of the year has not hoisted the Champions League trophy since 2015, while Ronaldo has won it four times in the last five seasons with Real and has staked his claim to win it again with Juventus.
“What Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus did was unbelievable. I thought Atletico would be stronger, but Juve walked all over them and Cristiano had a magical night,” Messi said of his longtime rival to the claim of being the world’s best player.
“But every team left is difficult, so let’s see who we get next.”