Bayer Leverkusen 1 Barcelona 3
Sanchez and Messi put holders on easy street
Double top: Sanchez beats Leno to fire his second of the game
Barcelona put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with victory over a Leverkusen side who might wonder what would have been had they attacked from the start.
After the German hosts sat deep to frustrate Barca in the first half, Alexis Sanchez's first Champions League goal, scored in the 41st minute, separated the teams at the break.
But Leverkusen came out with a much more positive outlook after the break, levelling through Michal Kadlec and then having several chances before Sanchez's second and a late Lionel Messi strike gave Barca victory.
Leverkusen, hit heavily by injury, set up to defend against a Barcelona side that was missing Xavi Hernandez.
The result was a fairly drab opening, with a Dani Alves free-kick, sent comfortably over the bar, the sum total of the chances in the opening quarter of an hour.
Daniel Schwaab made a fine intervention to prevent Messi nipping in for an easy close-range chance, before Adriano curled a shot well wide from the left channel with openings hard to come by.
Andre Schurrle fluffed Leverkusen's only half-chance of the first 45 minutes, totally miskicking when the ball sat up invitingly on the edge of the area.
Messi was doing his best to wriggle through the Leverkusen defence, but could not get enough power on a shot through Schwaab's legs from a difficult angle.
But the Argentinian was the provider for the opening goal, flicking a pass over the defence that had Alexis and Cesc Fabregas scampering after it.
High point: Sanchez hails his - and Barcelona's - second as the holders sealed an easy win in Germany
Alexis won the debate between the two and slipped it through the legs of Bernd Leno and into the bottom corner.
With their containment strategy undone, Leverkusen looked much more positive to start the second half, with Manuel Friedrich having an early chance when Puyol's header fell for him at the far post, but he could not stretch far enough to turn it goalwards.
They were level in the 52nd minute as Vedran Corluka was allowed the time to cross from a tight position, standing the ball up for Kadlec to head in.
At full stretch: Lionel Messi makes it 3-1
But parity lasted only four minutes before Alexis got his second, latching on to a wonderful threaded ball from Fabregas to round the goalkeeper and finish.
Moments later, a defensive mix-up gave Renato Augusto another chance for the hosts, but his shot was straight at Victor Valdes.
They had another chance to level in the 64th minute when Gonzalo Castro raced onto the ball and powered a low shot at goal, but Valdes used fingertips to push it onto the post.
No chance: Victor Valdes can do nothing but watch Michal Kadlec's thundering header sail into the net
Messi was the next to find the woodwork, racing in from the right wing and then dinking a shot over the onrushing Leno from a tight angle, only to see it come back off the upright.
Leverkusen introduced Stefan Kiessling from the bench and he almost had an immediate impact, stooping to head Castro's curling cross goalwards and forcing Valdes into a good save on the line.
Leno was then called on to make a fine save and deny Alexis a hat-trick as he sent a diving header goalwards.
But Barca got what could be a killer third goal two minutes from time, with Messi the creator and finisher as he slipped Dani Alves through and the Brazilian selflessly squared for the Argentinian to find the net.
Olympique Lyonnais 1-0 APOEL
A second-half strike from Alexandre Lacazette saw Lyon claim a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their last 16 tie with APOEL Nicosia at Stade de Gerland.
Lacazette struck in the 58th minute with a deflected effort to separate the sides as Lyon dominated in what was the first appearance of a Cypriot club in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
The visitors defended doggedly throughout to limit the deficit to a solitary goal, and the French side could be left to rue not building further on their possession as they look ahead to the challenge of defending their slender advantage in the second leg in Nicosia.
Lyon coach Remi Garde sprung a couple of surprises, handing starts to Lacazette and Ederson at the expense of Jimmy Briand and Bafetimbi Gomis, while Cris and Kim Kallstrom returned for Lyon with Lisandro occupying the lone-striking berth.
The hosts were left irate after they were denied a clear penalty in the third minute: Ederson forced his way into the APOEL box, only to be hauled down clumsily by Nuno Morais. Referee Paolo Tagliavento ignored the vociferous appeals for a spot kick.
Lyon piled on the pressure and could have created a goalscoring opportunity in the 20th minute as Lacazette made an incisive run beyond the visitors’ back four, but Ederson crucially dallied and played the through ball too late with his team-mate caught offside.
It was Lacazette’s turn to be profligate on the half-hour mark as he jinked inside two challenges on the edge of the APOEL box, only to blast a wild shot over the crossbar with just a relieved Dionisios Chiotis to beat.
By the end of the first half, Lyon had mustered 13 shots on target while the visitors had yet to draw a save from Hugo Lloris, but the Cypriot side could have made much better use of a dangerous free kick on the edge of the hosts’ box as Ailton blasted over.
APOEL’s defending was unerring and wholehearted and the commitment of the visitors was epitomised by Paulo Jorge, who made a stunning last-ditch challenge to clear off the line as Ederson rounded Chiotis and slid a precise shot towards the corner of the empty net seconds after the break.
But Lyon did manage to break through in the 58th minute as the marauding Cris picked out Lacazette on the left edge of the penalty area, and the midfielder proceeded to fire a low drive which took a vicious deflection off Jorge and beyond a helpless Chiotis.
Lacazette was promptly replaced by Briand as coach Remi Garde shuffled his pack, and the hosts continued to press forward incessantly in search of a second to stamp their authority on the tie.
Yoann Gourcuff replaced Ederson late on as Lyon dictated the play in terms of possession, and within minutes of coming on the playmaker had a free header inside the APOEL box from Michel Bastos’s cross, but he could only direct his effort tamely wide.
Despite their domination of the ball, the French side were unable to muster a second goal as APOEL defended obdurately deep inside their half in the final stages of the match and the visitors were the happier at the full-time whistle.
Lyon had failed to win any of their last five Champions League knockout stage matches, but Garde’s side’s victory ensured that they made a strong start to the tie ahead of an undoubtedly tricky second leg at the GSP-Stadion.
Source: Yahoo Sport