Confident Barcelona Clinch Win in GermanyFebruary 15, 2012
Barcelona took an important step towards the next round of the Champions League on Tuesday night, triumphing 3-1 at the BayArena. Alexis Sánchez provided the first two goals with two clinical finishes, and Messi followed up with a crucial clincher in the final minutes.
The opening half was a turgid, tactical affair. Barcelona completely dominated possession but were faced with a relatively timid opponent, who sat deep and narrow and blocked all avenues to goal.
Chances were few and far between. There was a sniff of an opening in the 13th minute, when Alexis broke free down the right and tried to find Messi with a cross, but Schwaab intercepted the pass on the stretch just in front of the Argentine.
Dani Alves sent a long range free-kick just over a little later, but after that the game descended into a stalemate, with Barcelona laboring on a pitch with long grass that looked a little untended.
But just before half-time and almost out of nowhere, Barcelona got a goal. Bayer Leverkusen tried to get up the pitch on a rare counter-attack, but abandoned their left flank. So when the ball fell to Messi, he produced a fantastic pass with the outside of his boot to release Alexis. The Chilean’s finish was perfect, side-footing between Leno’s legs and into the bottom-left corner.
Perhaps unsurprising given their slightly negative approach in the first half, Leverkusen were far more enterprising in the early minutes of the second period. The teams exchanged half-chances before the home side managed to equalise – right-back Corluka got to the byline and swung a cross in towards the back-post. Czech international Kadlec managed to get the jump on Puyol and headed into the top corner.
Barcelona’s response was almost immediate. Cesc found time and space in the middle and picked out Alexis with a sumptuous through-ball. The Chilean then advanced on Leno and jinked to the keeper’s right, before finishing into the empty net from a tight angle.
It was the cue for a very even spell – Barça were still finding openings, it’s just that the opposition were also proving a little more adventurous now. Renato Augusto was denied by a world-class save by Valdés, who pushed the striker’s low shot on the left-hand post. Valdés came to rescue a little late when he managed to gather Kiessling’s diving header.
Messi might have put the tie firmly in Barcelona’s hands when he produced a mesmerising piece of skill to evade two Leverkusen defenders on the right side of the area, but his shot was blocked by Leno and then bounced off his chest and onto the post.
But there was time to take a commanding lead back to Barcelona next month. Alves was spotted by Messi, who released the right-back with a deft pass. Alves was forced wide as he went forward, but kept his composure to cross for Messi, leaving the Argentine with an easy finish at the back post.
0-1 Alexis (min 41)
1-1 Kadlec (min 52)
1-2 Alexis (min 55)
1-3 Messi (min 88)