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Football
Barca and Lyon record Champions League wins
Title holders Barcelona break down stubborn Leverkusen while Lyon edge out Nicosia in the first leg of the last 16.
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2012 08:54
The victory means that Barcelona is almost certain to make it to the quarter-finals [Reuters]

An inspirational display from the tireless Lionel Messi, including a 38th goal of the season, has placed Barcelona on the verge of the Champions League quarterfinals following a 3-1 away victory against Bayern Leverkusen in the first leg on Tuesday.

Breaking down a stubborn Leverkusen side in the round-of-16 match was the perfect riposte amid domestic troubles that have resulted in Barcelona falling 10 points behind Real Madrid in Spanish league.

"When you play against the German teams you don't have the control or possession a lot and they are physically stronger,'' Pep Guardiola, Barca's coach, said.

"In the second half, we played a game that was not too interesting for us but we scored three goals and we will try to finish it in the second leg at home.''

The only other match was equally tight, with Alexandre Lacazette's goal giving Lyon a slight edge against APOEL Nicosia.

Betting on Barca

Another four teams are in action on Wednesday, when AC Milan hosts Arsenal and Zenit St. Petersburg takes on Benfica. 

Few, though, would bet against Barcelona reaching another final. When Messi began to exert more influence, the team soon found its breakthrough in the 41st minute.

After spotting a rare gap in the Leverkusen midfield, Messi slipped the ball through to Sanchez, who slotted a shot past goalkeeper Bernd Leno and inside the left post.

Leverkusen defender Michal Kadlec equalized at the start of the second half by heading in Vedran Corluka's cross, but Barcelona was back in front three minutes later.

It was Sanchez again who scored, after Cesc Fabregas initially sliced open the defense. After evading Leverkusen defender Manuel Friedrich, Sanchez rounded Leno before finishing from a tight angle.

Messi was beginning to cause the hosts more trouble with his menacing, weaving runs _ and he gave his team a crucial third away goal in the 88th.

Naturally, he started the move. After setting Dani Alves free on the right, Messi darted into the penalty area to direct a pinpoint return from the Brazilian into the net.

Even Leverkusen thinks there is no way back at the Camp Nou on March 7.

"I think the tie is finished to be honest,'' Corluka said. 

But don't write off the chances just yet of APOEL, which is the first Cypriot team to reach the Champions League knockout phase.

APOEL's defense was every bit as resilient as Leverkusen's on Tuesday, and was unlucky to concede in the 58th minute.

Alexandre Lacazette fired a powerful shot that deflected off APOEL defender Paulo Jorge to loop over goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis and under the crossbar.

"We had some good reasons to be wary of this team that gave a hard time to Porto, Shaktar (Donetsk) and Zenit (St. Petersburg),'' Lyon coach Remi Garde said.

"It's a team that is very well organized and dangerous on counterattacks.''

Source:
Agencies
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