Barca all but in last eight, APOEL's dream lives on
Holders Barcelona all but sealed their place in this season's Champions League quarter-finals after beating German opponents Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 away in their Last 16 first leg clash on Tuesday
Holders Barcelona all but sealed their place in this season's Champions League quarter-finals after beating German opponents Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 away in their Last 16 first leg clash on Tuesday.
They could well be joined by Cypriot side APOEL, who came away from French giants Lyon trailing 1-0 but the fairytale side of this season's competition has every chance of turning the tables in three weeks time.
Barcelona players. Pic/AFP.
Barca took their time to make their evident superiority tell as the poor run of four away matches without a win appeared to have an effect on the players.
However, two goals from Chilean star Alexis Sanchez, the first one set up by three-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, who also grabbed the third which was the best of the match.
Michal Kadlec had briefly given the hosts hope of earning a notable result, but Leverkusen were their own worst enemies as they missed several chances of their own to leave them with a daunting task in Barcelona.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who faces an almost impossible ask in retaining the domestic league title as bitter rivals Real Madrid have a 10 point lead, admitted his side had taken time to assert their authority.
"I think the second half was good, we used the space better after we took the lead," said Guardiola.
"We tried to improve our game, we had a few chances in the first half, but perhaps the final pass was missing.
"But we were playing away and we came into the game after the break."
His Leverkusen counterpart Robin Dutt also thought that his team had produced their best football in the second-half, but not good enough to end a poor run which has seen them win just once in eight matches.
"The defense was good in the first half, but we were lacking a bit of courage," said Dutt.
"We gave them too much respect and were a bit anxious.
"It was a completely different story in the second half when we played our part in the game and caused Barcelona some problems."
Lyon deserved to win against an APOEL side that relied on the safety-first tactics that have paid off so handsomely thusfar this season in which they have become the first Cypriot side to reach the knockout stages of the elite competition.
Alexandre Lacazette got the only goal shortly before the hour mark in a match that the French hosts may come to regret they were too cautious in their approach as they kept leading scorer Bafetimbi Gomis on the bench at kick-off.
However, coach Remi Garde was relieved to have got the win and for his side to have kept a welcome clean sheet which was only their second in 12 games.
"We would have preferred to score a second goal and push APOEL further back. But I'm not disappointed because we did the maximum against a side that has caused problems for other teams.
"We found a way to goal without conceding a goal, which is very important."
His APOEL counterpart Ivan Jovanovic refused to admit the game was up.
"It's a very good result for Lyon, of course, and they have a big advantage," he said. "But from our perspective, we'll try to play better, so why can't we still go through?"