Zenit Deny Lyon Chance To Clinch Early Champions League Last 16 Spot

Zenit St. Petersburg’s Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Lyon’s French forward Moussa Dembele, Lyon’s Burkinabe forward Bertrand Traore and Zenit St. Petersburg’s Russian goalkeeper Mikhail Kerzhakov in action during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between Zenit and Lyon at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg on November 27, 2019.
Olga MALTSEVA / AFP

 

Lyon missed out on a chance to seal a Champions League last 16 place with a match to spare after losing 2-0 at Zenit Saint Petersburg on Wednesday.

A victory in Group G over the Russian Premier League leaders would have claimed a knockout spot for Rudi Garcia’s men but the three points for the home side, gained thanks to goals from Artem Dzyuba and Magomed Ozdoev, maintain their hopes of reaching the next round.

The French side, who sit third behind Zenit but level with the Russians on seven points, welcome Leipzig next as Zenit travel to Benfica on December 10.

Later on Wednesday German outfit Leipzig host the Portuguese champions knowing a win would secure a first-ever last 16 spot for Julien Nagelsmann’s side in the top-tier competition.

READ ALSO: Valencia Delay Chelsea’s Last 16 Spot After Thrilling Draw

Zenit coach Sergei Semak kept faith in the starting lineup from the weekend’s 2-1 league victory over Rubin Kazan, with Dzyuba who scored that winner in that game leading the attack.

Garcia, who replaced the sacked Sylvinho in October, was without injured midfielder Thiago Mendes and ill winger Martin Terrier after beating Nice on Saturday as 16-year-old attacking midfielder Rayan Cherki was named on the bench.

The best of the early chances fell to Sardar Azmoun on 35 minutes after Daler Kuzayev and Joachim Andersen were shown yellow cards in the opening half an hour.

Iran forward Azmoun broke through the French defence but his chipped shot hit the post before he was brought down by Anthony Lopes, with VAR deciding against awarding a penalty.

Dzybua went one better than Azmoun seven minutes later to claim a lead for the Russian outfit.

The Russia international headed in from a Douglas Santos corner as Lyon protested with referee Daniele Orsato for Dzybua’s tussle with Marcelo in the penalty area.

Captain Leo Dubois and fellow-wing back Marcal were shown yellow cards by Orsato for their complaints.

Semak’s men controlled a lackluster second-half and Ozdoev made sure of all three points with his third goal of the season in the 84th minute.

Lyon have three Ligue 1 games before hosting Leipzig as Zenit host Spartak and Dynamo Moscow in the league before the trip Portugal next month.

AFP

Thieves Burgle Lyon Forward Traore’s House During European Tie

Lyon’s Burkinabe forward Bertrand Traore (R) shoots and scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G football match between Olympique Lyonnais and SL Benfica at the Decines Groupama Stadium, on November 5, 2019.
JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

 

Burkina Faso striker Bertrand Traore was the victim of a burglary while playing for Lyon in their Champions League win over Benfica, police said Wednesday.

Police arrived at Traore’s home at around 9.20 pm (2020 GMT) Tuesday to discover the front door forced open and that thieves had broken into a safe before fleeing the scene.

Traore was brought on as a substitute in the game at Groupama Stadium and scored a late goal in a 3-1 victory for the French side.

READ ALSO: Europa League: Arsenal Held By Vitoria Guimaraes 1-1

According to the Lyon Mag website, a significant sum of money and luxury watches worth up to 300,000 euros ($332,000) were stolen from the property in the eastern Lyon suburbs.

Last February three Lyon players including Dutch forward Memphis Depay were burgled while their club was playing Barcelona.

Depay had already been robbed last September, while Lyon were playing Nice. On that occasion property worth, more than one million euros was taken.

Officials and players in Marseille and Paris have also been targets during games in recent years.

AFP

Nigerian ‘Sex Slavery’ Ring Goes On Trial In France

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

 

Twenty-four suspected members of a sex trafficking ring accused of forcing Nigerian women into prostitution in France go on trial Wednesday, the latest case to highlight the growing use of Nigerian migrants as sex slaves in Europe.

Nigeria was the main country of origin of the migrants arriving across the Mediterranean to Italy in 2016 and 2017, though their numbers have since dropped.

Many of the arrivals were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex on arrival to repay their debts.

Nigerians now outnumber Chinese or Eastern European sex workers on the streets of France and some other European countries.

Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based female-led pimping ring known as the “Authentic Sisters” were sentenced to up to 11 years in prison for forcing girls into sex slavery in France.

Many were themselves former trafficking victims-turned-perpetrators.

READ ALSO: Modern Slavery: Kaduna Govt Unites 140 Victims With Families

Similar gangs have also been dismantled in Italy and Britain.

The investigation in Lyon, where police estimate half the city’s sex workers are Nigerian, began after authorities received a tip about a Nigerian pastor accused of exploiting several sex workers who lived in apartments he owned.

The pastor, Stanley Omoregie, has denied the charges, which include aggravated pimping and slavery.

But in the transcript of a conversation submitted to the court, he is heard saying he wanted “those with beautiful bodies, who can be controlled, not those that cause problems.”

The prosecution has presented him as the kingpin of a family-based syndicate made up of 10 women and 14 men, including one of Europe’s most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of recruiting destitute women in Nigeria for the sex trade in Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier.

Edosomwan, who is believed to be on the run in the Benelux countries, Italy or Germany, will be tried in absentia.

From prostitution to pimping

The UN has estimated that 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy — their first port of call in Europe — are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.

The accused in Lyon cover the entire gamut of sex trafficking activities, from iron-fisted “madams” and violent pimps as well as drivers of the vans in which the women perform sexual acts, and those tasked with laundering the proceeds of the trafficking.

Prosecutors estimate that 17 alleged victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to 150,000 euros ($166,000) a month for the syndicate, selling sex for as little as 10 euros.

Most of the women come from Benin City, capital of Nigeria’s southern Edo State, a human trafficking hotbed with a long history of dispatching women and men to Europe to earn money to send back home.

Many told investigators they had taken part in “juju” or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they promised to repay the money they owed for their passage to Europe.

Many of the woman took the perilous migrant trail across the Sahara Desert to Libya and then across the Mediterranean to Italy before winding up in Lyon.

Among the accused is a 28-year-old former prostitute who was herself released from sex slavery after paying off her debts and who in turn brought over another young woman from Nigeria.

Months of police wiretaps and surveillance led to the arrest of the suspects between September 2017 and January 2018.

They risk 10 years in jail if convicted.

Lyon Appoint Garcia As New Coach

Marseille’s French coach Rudi Garcia reacts during the French L1 football match between Olympique de Marseille (OM) and Olympique Lyonnais (OL) at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, on May 12, 2019. GERARD JULIEN / AFP

 

Lyon have named Rudi Garcia as their new coach following the sacking of Brazilian Sylvinho last week, the Ligue 1 club announced on Monday.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona full-back Sylvinho saw his first role as a head coach last only 11 matches as Lyon slipped to within a point of the relegation zone in the French top flight after a seven-game winless run.

Former Marseille, Lille and Roma boss Garcia has joined on a deal until 2021.

“I chose Rudi Garcia because he is a fighter who, like us, has the ambition to win titles and succeed on the European stage,” said Lyon sporting director Juninho, who had also hand-picked his compatriot Sylvinho to replace Bruno Genesio at the end of last season.

The 55-year-old Garcia led Lille to a league and cup double in 2011 and spent three years with Italian giants Roma from 2013.

He left Marseille in May after failing to lead Lyon’s bitter rivals into the Ligue 1 top three, missing out on Champions League qualification.

“He is an experienced coach who has already won trophies,” added Juninho.

“Wherever he has been, he has had above-average performances and has always managed to make the most of what he had at his disposal.”

Garcia took training on Monday as his new team prepare to face second-bottom Dijon at the Groupama Stadium on Saturday.

Sylvinho’s surprise exit came even though Lyon have claimed four points from their first two Champions League group-stage outings.

They will visit Benfica in Garcia’s first away game in charge on October 23 as they look to edge closer to a second straight appearance in the Champions League.

Fekir Signs Four-Year Contract With Real Betis

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 29, 2019 Lyon’s French midfielder Nabil Fekir celebrates after Lyon won the French L1 football match Stade Rennais vs Olympique Lyonnais (OL) at the Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, western France.
LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

French World Cup-winning midfielder Nabil Fekir has completed a surprising move from Lyon to Real Betis, the La Liga club announced on Tuesday. 

“Real Betis and Olympique Lyonnais have reached an agreement for the transfer of midfielder Nabil Fekir,” the club stated on its website.

“The French international has signed a contract until 2023 with the Green and White club. Fekir becomes the fourth team signing for the season 2019/2020.

“With the arrival of Fekir, Real Betis acquire creativity, great technique, shooting ability and attacking edge.”

READ ALSO: Cristiano Ronaldo Will Not Face Rape Charges In Nevada

No transfer fee has been made public although reports in France and Spain put the fee at just over 20 million euros which could rise by another 10 million through bonuses.

Fekir, who has signed a five-year deal, and Betis both have a 20 percent sell-on clause included in the deal.

In spite of a likely pay rise from his Lyon salary, estimated by L’Equipe at 350,000 euros a month, it appears a surprising move for the 26-year-old on a football front.

Unlike Lyon, who qualified for this season’s Champions League, Seville club Betis have no European competition after finishing 10th in La Liga last season.

A year ago, Fekir came close to signing for Liverpool for 70 million euros, negotiations only breaking down when he went to Anfield for the medical.

With just a year left on his contract at Lyon, and after a season in which he scored just nine goals, he had also been linked with Sevilla, Valencia and Napoli.

Fekir has won 21 caps for France and came on as a late substitute in last year’s World Cup final win against Croatia in Moscow.

AFP

Lyon Signs Brazil’s Mendes After Sales Of Young Stars

Thiago Mendes/ AFP

 

French club Lyon on Wednesday completed the signing of Brazilian midfielder Thiago Mendes, reinvesting some of the 70 million euros ($79 million) they received from Tottenham for French international midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

Mendes, 27, was signed from Lyon’s Ligue 1 rivals Lille for a fee reported to be 25 million euros.

He is Lyon’s second Brazilian recruit of the summer after Jean Lucas was signed for eight million euros from Flamengo in a deal negotiated by Juninho Pernambucano, the Brazilian former Lyon player who has returned to the club as sporting director, and new coach Sylvinho.

READ ALSO: Jesus, Firmino Send Brazil Into Copa America Final As Messi Fails Again

On Tuesday, Ndombele finalised his move to Champions League finalists Tottenham, who smashed their transfer record to sign the highly-coveted 22-year-old.

Lyon have also sold defender Ferland Mendy to Real Madrid in a deal worth up to 53 million euros and in total their transfer receipts this summer amount to 113 million euros.

AFP

Chelsea Beat Arsenal To Europa Title As Lyon Seal Champions League Spot

Chelsea’s English defender Gary Cahill (R) holds the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after winning the UEFA Europa League final football match between Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC at the Baku Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijian, on May 29, 2019. PHOTO: Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

 

Chelsea were not the only ones celebrating their victory over Arsenal in Wednesday’s Europa League final.

Their 4-1 win in Baku was also great news for French club Lyon, who will now go directly into the group stage of next season’s Champions League.

While Arsenal — who finished fifth in the Premier League — needed to win the game in order to return to the Champions League after a two-year absence, Chelsea were already assured of their return to Europe’s top table.

Sarri’s side qualified by virtue of coming third in the Premier League, so the berth on offer to the winner of Europe’s secondary competition instead goes to Lyon.

The French side finished third in Ligue 1, meaning ordinarily they would be required to go through two qualifying rounds to return to the group stage of a competition in which they reached the last 16 this season.

It is the second year running in which Lyon have benefited in such a way – they also came third in Ligue 1 last season but went straight into the group stage after Atletico Madrid won last year’s Europa League and finished second in La Liga.

Lyon have just appointed a new Brazilian management team, with former player Juninho as sporting director and Sylvinho — once of Arsenal — as coach.

AFP

Several Hurt In Package Bomb Blast In France

Emergency workers stretcher a woman to a waiting ambulance after a suspected package bomb blast along a pedestrian street in the heart of Lyon, southeast France, the local prosecutors’ office said on May 24, 2019. PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

 

A package blast on a pedestrian street in the heart of France’s city of Lyon wounded several people Friday, officials said, just two days ahead of the country’s hotly contested European Parliament elections.

President Emmanuel Macron called the blast an “attack” during a live Facebook interview, adding that no deaths had been reported “for the time being”.

The area where the explosion occurred, on a narrow strip of land between the Saone and Rhone rivers in the historic centre of the southeast city, was evacuated and cordoned off by police, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

A police source told AFP the package contained “screws or bolts” and had been placed in front of a bakery near a busy corner of two popular streets.

A man apparently in his early 30s who was spotted near the scene shortly before the attack was being sought by police, a source close to the inquiry said.

Police said eight people were wounded but none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

‘Windows were blown out’

Macron, in his Facebook interview, said: “It’s not for me to give a toll but it appears there are no fatalities. There have been injuries, so obviously I’m thinking of these injured and their families.”

“An eight-year-old girl was wounded…. We’re fairly relieved because apparently there were no serious injuries but on the other hand, we are certain it was an explosive device,” said Denis Broliquier, mayor of the city’s Second Arrondissement.

He said the suspect sought by police had been seen on video surveillance cameras.

“There was an explosion and I thought it was a car crash,” said Eva, a 17-year-old student who was about 15 metres (50 feet) from the site of the blast.

“There were bits of electric wire near me, and batteries and bits of cardboard and plastic. The windows were blown out,” he said.

A terrorism probe has been opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office, which has jurisdiction over all terror cases in the country.

France has been on high alert following a wave of deadly jihadist terror attacks since 2015 which have killed more than 250 people.

“It’s an area in the very centre of Lyon, a major street,” the city’s deputy mayor in charge of security, Jean-Yves Secheresse, told BFM television.

“These areas are highly secured, the police are continually present,” as were patrols by soldiers deployed in a long-running anti-terror operation, he said.

Lyon is the third-biggest city in France. The population of the city plus its extensive suburbs is 2.3 million.

The most recent package bomb in France dates back to December 2007, when an explosion in front of a law office in Paris killed one person and injured another. Police never found who carried out that attack.

AFP

Relegation-Threatened Dijon Upset Lyon

Relegation-Threatened Dijon Upset Lyon
Lyon’s French defender Leo Dubois falls on the pitch during the French L1 football match between Lyon (OL) and Dijon (DFCO) on April 6, 2019, in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon, central-eastern France. ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP

 

Lyon slipped to a second damaging defeat this week as a 3-1 loss to struggling Dijon and a hostile atmosphere at the Groupama Stadium piled the pressure on Bruno Genesio on Saturday.

The 52-year-old coach had been told by president Jean-Michel Aulas that he would be offered a two-year contract extension if Lyon reached the French Cup final and finished in the Ligue 1 top three.

But a 3-2 Cup semi-final defeat by Rennes on Tuesday put his future in doubt, and fans on Saturday unfurled banners calling for Genesio’s departure.

“We had already been eliminated on Tuesday. It’s unacceptable,” said goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, who added that the players need to put Genesio’s unstable situation to the back of their minds.

READ ALSOBenzema Scores Twice To Give Madrid Win Over Eibar

“We are professionals. We must know what to do. We know that it’s football. Part of the decision on the (future of the) coach was made on Tuesday but we must know how to ignore all that.

“The truth is on the pitch. If we don’t turn up on the pitch it can only be difficult in the future.”

Martin Terrier’s first-minute goal briefly placated the home support, but only six minutes later Lyon were behind.

Wesley Said danced through the hapless home defence to slot in a third-minute equaliser, before his speculative long-range effort was deflected past Lopes by Lyon centre-back Marcelo.

Genesio’s beleaguered men never seriously threatened a response and put paid to their own hopes in comical circumstances midway through the second half.

Said’s pull-back was inadvertently backheeled into the net by Lyon full-back Rafael, with the spin on the ball leaving Lopes grasping at thin air.

The result leaves Lyon only seven points clear of Saint-Etienne in the third and final Champions League spot, with Les Verts visiting Amiens later on Saturday.

A first league win since January lifted Dijon off the foot of the table and into the relegation play-off place.

AFP

UPDATED: Barcelona Thrash Lyon In Champions League Last-16

BREAKING: Barcelona Thrash Lyon In Champions League Last 16
Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, second leg football match between against Olympique Lyonnais at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 13, 2019. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Lionel Messi came up just short of matching Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick a day earlier but still scored twice and set up two more as Barcelona beat Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. 

After Ronaldo’s treble on Tuesday for Juventus sent Atletico Madrid packing in Turin, Messi delivered his own symphony at the Camp Nou, where Lyon were outplayed save for a very brief period in the second half when they threatened a comeback in this last-16 tie.

A 0-0 draw in France in the first leg last month meant Lyon always had a chance to make Barca nervous, but Messi’s sumptuously chipped penalty and a simple finish from Philippe Coutinho looked to have finished the tie before half-time.

READ ALSOLiverpool Shock Bayern To Seal Champions League Quarter Final Spot

Yet Lucas Tousart’s volley left Lyon one goal away from putting Barcelona out, only for Messi to take charge. He scored once more, before teeing up Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele to complete the victory.

Messi now has 108 goals in the Champions League, behind Ronaldo’s imperious 124, but his latest double takes his team one step closer to the trophy they crave the most.

They go into Friday’s draw for the last eight as the sole Spanish representative, along with Juventus, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Porto and Ajax.

The last time Spain only had one team left at this stage of the competition was 2010 and after Atletico Madrid’s exit to Juventus on Tuesday, Barca needed to win to avoid the first Spanish black-out in the quarter-finals since 2005.

Coutinho had been whistled off by his own fans last weekend but was picked to start, preferred to Dembele who had just recovered from a hamstring strain. World Cup winner Nabil Fekir started for Lyon, having served a suspension in the first leg.

Lyon could barely escape their own penalty area in early exchanges as Messi got to work. He fired one shot towards the top corner and then latched onto a Sergio Busquets pass but Anthony Lopes sprung out to intercept.

– Exquisite –

Jason Denayer was not as quick in the 16th minute. By the time he had twisted to follow Messi’s pass, the excellent Luis Suarez was a step ahead. Denayer slid but was nowhere near the ball and Suarez dragged his foot to make the contact clear.

A penalty was given, although Messi was made to wait while VAR checked but there was no sign of tension. His chip down the middle was exquisite.

Lyon improved and Moussa Dembele’s shot needed a strong block from Clement Lenglet before Lopes collided with Coutinho and had to be replaced, in tears, in the 34th minute by Mathieu Gorgelin.

That was not before Barca had scored a second as the faultless Arthur Melo played an angled pass into Suarez, who wriggled clear. With only Lopes to beat, he tapped across for Coutinho, who had an open net.

Suarez let the ball run through his, and Marcelo’s, legs while Messi twice could have added a third, once before half-time when he was denied from the angle, and once shortly after, when Fernando Marcal cleared his lifted finish off the line.

Lyon looked dead and buried but found a way back in just before the hour. It came from a corner, which Barca three times failed to clear. Amid the scramble, Tousart had time to chest and volley into the corner.

For 10 minutes, Barcelona were edgy but while Fekir lashed over, Lyon failed to step forward. Their momentum subsided and Messi finished them off in a late flurry.

First, his dummy sent Denayer and Marcelo flying and his shot was too strong for the weak hand of Gorgelin. Then, he twice tore away on the counter-attack, finding Pique at the back post and finally Dembele, who made it five.

AFP

Coutinho Starts For Barcelona In Champions League Clash Against Lyon

Coutinho Starts For Barcelona In Champions League Clash Against Lyon
Barcelona’s new Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho poses for a picture in Barcelona on January 7, 2018. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Philippe Coutinho will start for Barcelona in their Champions League last 16-second leg clash at the Camp Nou with Lyon on Wednesday.

Coutinho, the world’s third most expensive player, has been struggling for form and was whistled off by a minority of Barca fans when substituted during their 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano at the weekend.

He takes his place alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi up front ahead of Ousmane Dembele, who was only deemed fit enough for the bench after picking up a minor hamstring strain against Rayo.

Nabil Fekir returns for Lyon, who held Barcelona to a goalless draw in the first leg, after serving a suspension while defender Marcelo is also back after shaking off a thigh injury.

Starting line-ups for the Champions League last 16, second leg between Barcelona and Lyon at the Camp Nou on Wednesday (kick-off 2000 GMT):

Barcelona (4-3-3)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Arthur Melo; Lionel Messi (capt), Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho

Coach: Ernesto Valverde (ESP)

Lyon (4-3-3)

Anthony Lopes; Leo Dubois, Jason Denayer, Marcelo, Ferland Mendy; Tanguy Ndombele, Lucas Tousart, Fernando Marcal; Moussa Dembele, Nabil Fekir (capt), Memphis Depay

Coach: Bruno Genesio (FRA)

Referee: Szymon Marciniak (POL)

AFP

Champions League: Barca Fire Blanks At Lyon In Last 16, First Leg

Lyon’s Portuguese goalkeeper Anthony Lopes (L) catches the ball next to Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (R) during the game at the Groupama Stadium in Decines-Charpieu, central-eastern France. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Barcelona will hope to make home advantage count in the return after Lionel Messi and his team-mates drew a blank in Lyon on Tuesday, the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie ending in a goalless stalemate.

The Spanish side had most of the chances at the Groupama Stadium, with Luis Suarez firing just wide in the second half, but it was Lyon who came the closest when Martin Terrier hit the bar early on.

Ernesto Valverde’s side once again left frustrated on the road at the business end of the competition, and have now gone six away matches without winning in the Champions League knockout rounds, scoring just a single goal in that time. It is a run that goes back three years.

Desperate to end Real Madrid’s recent European dominance, Barca must now finish the job when the teams meet again at the Camp Nou on March 13, but Lyon remain very much in the tie.

Barcelona’s form needs to improve between now and then, though — the Catalans have drawn four of their last five matches in all, and have scored just once, from a penalty, in their last three outings.

With Arthur missing due to injury, Valverde opted to play Sergi Roberto in midfield here, leaving the out-of-form Philippe Coutinho on the bench alongside Arturo Vidal.

That may have been an acknowledgement that the visitors were wary of Lyon’s flying left-back Ferland Mendy, who has been linked with Barca in some quarters.

The visitors were certainly right to be wary of a Lyon side whose best performances this season have come against the big boys — four points from a possible six against Manchester City in the group stage and a recent win at home to Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.

– Thunderous strike –

The French club were without their World Cup-winning captain Nabil Fekir due to suspension though, and it was the 21-year-old Terrier who was surprisingly handed a start in his place.

Terrier is an unassuming talent, but he delivered the most exciting moment of the first half for the crowd of almost 58,000 with a thunderous strike from 20 yards out in the ninth minute that was tipped onto the bar by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The same player later shot well over at the end of a fantastic move from the home side, while Houssem Aouar had earlier been denied by the goalkeeper, but it was Barcelona who enjoyed the longer spells of possession.

The Catalans looked more assured on the ball, at least until they reached the Lyon penalty area.

Ousmane Dembele — one of two Frenchmen in the away line-up — came closest for them in the first half, but their best chances came after he had been replaced by Coutinho midway through the second period.

Suarez came within inches of breaking the deadlock 20 minutes from the end, firing narrowly wide with a first-time shot from Jordi Alba’s cutback.

Coutinho then had a powerful shot beaten away by Anthony Lopes, with the Lyon goalkeeper also frustrating Messi and Sergio Busquets as Barcelona dominated but departed without a potentially precious away goal.

At least they extended their unbeaten record against Lyon to seven matches, but there is still hope for the French club ahead of the return.

AFP