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Messi drive takes Barça past Lyon

Published: Thursday 20 September 2007, 0.55CET
FC Barcelona 3-0 Olympique Lyonnais The visitors were beaten by a François Clerc own goal and later strikes from Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry.
by Graham Hunter
from Camp Nou
Messi drive takes Barça past Lyon 
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Published: Thursday 20 September 2007, 0.55CET

Messi drive takes Barça past Lyon

FC Barcelona 3-0 Olympique Lyonnais The visitors were beaten by a François Clerc own goal and later strikes from Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry.

FC Barcelona secured three points on Matchday 1 by defeating Olympique Lyonnais 3-0 thanks to a first-half own goal from François Clerc and further strikes from Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry.

Stylish display
The margin of victory barely reflected the verve and style of some parts of the Barcelona performance, although a spirited and well thought out second-half display from Alain Perrin's men gives them optimism for the remainder of Group E.

Warning signs
The first goal had come with advance warning – though that did not help Lyon prevent it. Straight from kick-off Barcelona played with fluency, menace and pace. As early as the sixth minute, a searing Eric Abidal run allowed him to play a one-two with Ronaldinho and then leave Henry within millimetres of applying a scoring touch to his cross. Then the left-back set up Deco for a vicious shot on goal which Rémy Vercoutre parried.

Chances galore
The torrent of chances continued. Ronaldinho and Deco worked a free-kick routine which ended with the Brazilian firing low at goal. Then Henry slid a pass to Messi who beat two defenders before sending Ronaldinho in on goal – a Sébastien Squillaci tackle saved the day. Only Sidney Govou offered a flame of resistance in Lyon's attack, dancing through tackles as far as Barcelona's area. Eventually the hosts got their reward. Messi skipped beyond his markers down Barcelona's left, and delivered a cross-shot which Clerc diverted past Vercoutre on 21 minutes.

Hungry hosts
Frank Rijkaard's decision to give Henry his longest spell yet in Barça colours as a centre-forward was yielding the Frenchman's most encouraging showing so far. However, even this was overshadowed by exceptional work from Messi and Deco. Unlike in recent domestic matches, the Primera División team were persistently pressing their opponents. After Messi dropped deep, won a recuperation tackle and burst upfield, Xavi Hernández's return pass released him into the box. He shot past Vercoutre, only for Clerc to make amends for the own goal by clearing off the line. A lack of finish kept the half-time score at 1-0.

Tightening up
Credit then to Perrin and his side for reducing Barcelona's opportunities to a trickle after the interval, courtesy of a move to a 4-5-1 formation. Clerc and Anthony Réveillère marked exceptionally tightly in the full-back positions, so Ronaldinho and Messi were often either nullified or fouled. Indeed, the Brazilian was substituted on 65 minutes. So effective were the French champions that the home support, ecstatic in the first half, began to whistle their own.

Lyon ambition
Sensing a chance to spring the "big shock" he had predicted, Perrin then chose the attacking option and reverted to a 4-4-2 with Milan Baroš taking over from Nadir Belhadj. Barcelona's response came first with Xavi's slide-rule pass which Henry converted into a low drive and was turned away at his right-hand post by Vercoutre. It was more emphatic, however, when a flowing move between Deco, Andrés Iniesta and Messi resulted in the Argentinian capping his night with a right-footed shot into the corner of the net. There was still time for Bojan Krkić to become Barcelona's youngest UEFA Champions League debutant, before Giovani Dos Santos supplied Henry for his goal in added time.

Last updated: 20/09/07 10.22CET

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