Thierry Henry scored on his return to France to cancel out Juninho Pernambucano's early free-kick, as FC Barcelona came through a severe test against a vibrant Olympique Lyonnais side and will take a narrow advantage into second leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie.
Having suffered a surprise defeat against RCD Espanyol on Saturday, Josep Guardiola's men were hoping for a reassuring performance against the French champions but quickly found themselves under intense pressure. After Juninho's majestic set-piece on seven minutes OL created several more chances, Karim Benzema notably failing to convert a one-on-one and later striking a post. They would live to rue those misses as the visitors gradually improved, Samuel Eto'o also hitting the woodwork before Henry eventually found a way through on 69 minutes.
These two sides found the net 32 times between them in the group stage so it came as little surprise to see the deadlock broken inside seven minutes. The source of the opener was also familiar as Juninho registered the 43rd free-kick goal of his Lyon career and one of his most spectacular. Positioned close to the left touchline, the Brazilian curled the ball superbly over goalkeeper Víctor Valdés, who had advanced slightly anticipating a cross, and into the top corner.
Lyon on top
The hosts had actually begun tentatively yet Juninho's wonderful strike dispelled any lingering nerves and they were soon threatening again, Benzema racing through before shooting wide. Barcelona appeared shaken and Valdés was grateful to see another Juninho set-piece blocked by his wall before Ederson and Jean II Makoun missed from long range. With both sides springing forward at every opportunity the contest was breathless and neither defence appeared in control, a slip by Cris allowing Eto'o to burst clear for a shot that came back off the post.
If the Azulgrana thought that had marked the end of Lyon's dominance, Benzema had other ideas, setting up Kader Keita, who volleyed wide, then crashing a superb 20-metre shot against the base of the upright. Benzema looked set to score the goal his performance deserved when Keita roared up the right and squared towards the unmarked striker, yet Valdés intercepted at full stretch. The action was relentless and Barcelona threatened again before the break, Sergio Busquets heading over from point-blank range.
The pace slowed in the second half as Lyon dropped deeper and, though Juninho tested Valdés with another free-kick, Barça monopolised possession and began increasing the pressure. Daniel Alves was close to emulating his compatriot's first-half exploits but his deflected free-kick was brilliantly clawed out by a wrong-footed Hugo Lloris. The Lyon goalkeeper produced another fine reaction stop from Gerard Piqué's header before Henry struck, nodding in at the far post after Xavi Hernández's corner had been flicked on by Rafael Márquez.
Lyon lose steam
The goal took the wind out of the Lyon sails and despite the introductions of César Delgado and Kim Källström and, in the final moments, Miralem Pjanić, Claude Puel's side rarely looked dangerous thereafter. Barcelona, meanwhile, appeared content to hold on to the scoreline that makes them favourites at the Camp Nou on 11 March.