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AFP
March 15, 2019

Liverpool through, Messi proves too much for Lyon

Sports

AFP
March 15, 2019

MUNICH: Sadio Mane scored twice to steer Liverpool into the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday after a superb 3-1 win at Bayern Munich dumped out the German giants.

Having missed the goalless first leg at Anfield three weeks ago through suspension, Virgil van Dijk’s long pass led to Mane’s excellent first-half goal at the Allianz Arena.Dutch centre-back Van Dijk then headed last season’s runners-up Liverpool into a 2-1 lead from a Milner corner on 69 minutes after Joel Matip’s own goal had handed Bayern a first-half equaliser.

Mane made absolutely sure of Liverpool’s place in the quarter-final draw by nodding in six minutes from time.Liverpool’s 3-1 aggregate victory means they join Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United in the quarter-finals, completing a clean sweep of English sides reaching the last eight for the first time since 2008/09.

Milner was preferred to Fabinho in Liverpool’s midfield, but Jurgen Klopp was forced into an early change when captain Jordan Henderson hobbled off on 12 minutes.Brazilian Fabinho made an early entrance and Milner took the skipper’s armband.

Klopp had urged his side to “be brave on the ball” and it was that, combined with an amazing piece of skill by Mane, which gave them the lead.Van Dijk’s pin-point pass over 40 metres found Mane in the Bayern box with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer off his line.

Mane spun away and looped his shot inside the far post to give the visitors a valuable away goal in the 26th minute.The bravery Klopp wanted flowed through the Liverpool ranks and Milner, winning the midfield battle, set Firmino free in the box, but the Brazilian blasted his shot at Neuer.

However, the hosts drew level six minutes before the break when Serge Gnabry slipped his marker Andrew Robertson and hit a cross intended for Robert Lewandowski.The ball went in off Matip, who was focused on marking the Polish striker, to the despair of the Liverpool centre-back and the delight of the home crowd.

Liverpool were heading for the quarter-finals when Milner swung in the second of two corners in quick succession and Van Dijk powered a header past Neuer.Mane scored his second when Mohamed Salah’s chip found him at the far post to head home his sixth goal in four matches.

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi came up just short of matching Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick a day earlier but still scored twice and set up two more as Barcelona beat Lyon 5-1.

A 0-0 draw in France in the first leg last month meant Lyon always had a chance to make Barca nervous, but Messi’s sumptuously chipped penalty and a simple finish from Philippe Coutinho looked to have finished them off before half-time.

Yet Lucas Tousart’s volley left Lyon one goal away from putting Barcelona out, only for Messi to take charge again. He scored once more, before teeing up Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele to complete the victory.

Coutinho had been whistled off by his own fans last weekend but was picked to start, preferred to Dembele who had just recovered from a hamstring strain. The Brazilian was bright, enjoying one of his best performances in weeks.

Lyon could barely escape their own penalty area in early exchanges as Messi got to work. He fired one shot towards the top corner and then latched onto a Sergio Busquets pass but Anthony Lopes sprung out to intercept.

Jason Denayer was not as quick in the 16th minute. By the time he had twisted to follow Messi’s pass, the excellent Luis Suarez was a step ahead. Denayer slid but was nowhere near the ball and Suarez dragged his foot to make the contact clear.

A penalty was given, although Messi was made to wait while VAR checked, but there was no sign of tension. His chip down the middle was exquisite. Barca scored a second as the faultless Arthur Melo played an angled pass into Suarez, who wriggled clear. With only Lopes to beat, he tapped across for Coutinho, who had an open net.

Lyon looked dead and buried but found a way back in. It came from a corner, which Barca three times failed to clear. Amid the scramble, Tousart had time to chest and volley into the corner.

For 10 minutes, Barcelona were edgy but while Nabil Fekir lashed over, Lyon failed to step forward. Their momentum subsided and Messi finished them off in a late flurry.

First, his dummy sent Denayer and Marcelo flying and his shot was too strong for the weak hand of Gorgelin. Then, he twice tore away on the counter-attack, picking out Pique at the back post and finally Dembele, who made it five.

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