Barcelona failed to capitalise on the numerous opportunities they created as a mixture of poor finishing and a resolute Lyon defence meant they head to the return leg at Camp Nou with all still to play for, after a goalless draw in France on Tuesday night.
The visitors to the Lyon Olympic Stadium started brightly, with Ousmane Dembele making his presence known immediately by fizzing an effort wide within the first 30 seconds.
Houssem Aouar had a shot palmed wide by Marc-Andre ter Stegen before the German stopper produced a stunning save to tip Martin Terrier’s fierce long-range effort onto the crossbar in a pulsating opening to the match.
Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic were both guilty of wasting good opportunities for Ernesto Valverde’s men while Moussa Dembele was denied by a great sliding challenge from Gerard Pique as the half hour mark approached.
The second half started without the same pace that ended the first, with Memphis Depay flashing a bending drive wide seven minutes after the restart. The hosts were more content to sit deep and strike on the break as the match wore on, with Luis Suarez twice coming within inches of netting his first Champions League goal of the season.
It was one way traffic for the remainder of the second half, as Ernesto Valverde left baffled by their inability to apply the finishing touch on a night were they should have snatched the win.
Check out 90min’s breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
Almost ten years on from being knocked out in the Champions League quarter finals by the same opposition, and having lost all of their previous encounters with Valverde’s side, Lyon took on their Catalan opponents with renewed optimism after a strong campaign thus far in Ligue 1.
With Barcelona’s high press evident from the off, Lyon grew into the game and were left to rue two excellent stops by ter Stegen to deny them an early lead.
Bruno Génésio has seen his team perform brilliantly in the Champions League so far this season, going unbeaten in the competition ahead of Tuesday’s match. Despite being unable to see the best of Depay in the first 45 minutes, Lyon created some great openings, with some poor crossing and wayward finishing leaving them wondering if it might have been different had Nabil Fekir not been suspended.
The second half saw the home side sit deeper, more willing to utilise the pace of Depay on the break as Barcelona repeatedly kept knocking on the door, edging nearer a breakthrough. They will be pleased with their overall performance, with every player to a man putting everything they had into the ninety minutes. It’s an uphill task, but they’ll head into the return leg still very much in the tie.
Starting XI: Lopes (7); Dubois (8), Marcelo (8), Denayer (8), Mendy (8), Ndombele (8), Aouar (7), Traore (7), Depay (6), Terrier (7), Dembele (6)
Substitutes: Tousart (7), Diop Gueye (N/A), Cornet (7)
Star Man – Tanguy Ndombele
It feels somewhat unfair that – even after winning the World Cup – France still continue to produce outstanding talent, with Ndombele another magnificent prospect for an already magnificent national side. The 22-year-old showed remarkable composure on the ball in a match populated with some of football’s best.
The youngster even had the audacity to flick the ball over opposing players’ heads as he glided across the pitch, showcasing his ability to distribute the ball effectively both from five yards and fifty yards. The Lyon man stands at under six foot, but his physical presence and tireless energy were a huge asset to Les Gones throughout the ninety minutes.
Despite only having four senior caps for France so far, it seems unreasonable to suggest that Ndombele won’t be a key figure in Didier Deschamps’ Euro 2020 side.
#Ndombele showing some class here tonight, showing the world why he deserves the hype.
— #NBAIsBACK (@crusial_sani10) February 19, 2019
Key Talking Point
Valverde’s game plan to press Lyon high proved fruitful in the opening exchanges, as his midfielders all pressed well in the centre of the park, presenting Dembele with space down the left on numerous occasions.
A combination of questionable finishing and poor decision making was the only thing preventing La Blaugrana from taking an early lead.
They had their goalkeeper to thank in the first half but throughout the second period were utterly dominant. Valverde’s words appeared to work as La Blaugrana carved out numerous openings to take a strong lead ahead of the return leg at the Camp Nou. Lionel Messi ran the show, being equally effective dropping deep to start attacks as he was spearheading them up top.
Nothing can be said against the visitors performance, simply that everyone must have left their shooting boots on the plane. Plenty of times they found themselves with the goal at the mercy just lady luck was not on their side. They will fancy their chances in a few weeks time, however.
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (8); Semedo (8), Pique (7), Lenglet (7), Alba (7), Roberto (7), Busquets(7), Rakitic (7), Messi (8), Suarez (7), Dembele (7)
Substitutes: Coutinho (6), Vidal (6)
Star Man – Lionel Messi
It often feels like somewhat of a cop out to choose Messi as the star man, but he once again demonstrated the quality that keeps him up amongst the world’s greatest ever players. His otherworldly ability to find space, sometimes even without moving, is bewildering, while his close control makes it next to impossible to dispossess him.
On this occasion the only thing that was missing was the finishing touch. Barcelona had enough opportunities on the night to win three matches, but their failure to test Anthony Lopes on enough occasions was as much Messi’s fault as his fellow forwards.
In just four days time Barcelona travel to Sevilla in La Liga as they take on the fourth place side in their return to league action. Then, in what will be their third away trip on the spin, they face bitter rivals ?Real Madrid in their Copa del Rey semi final second leg
Meanwhile, Lyon also find themselves on the road, as they head to the south of France to take on struggling Monaco in Ligue 1, before a Coupe de France quarter final clash at home to Caen.