Leverkusen, Germany – Alexis Sanchez picked a wonderful time 1 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.
Sanchez went through the entire group stage without getting on the score sheet, but his two goals at the BayArena on Tuesday may have sealed a spot for Barcelona in the quarterfinals of Europe's most prestigious club tournament.
Barcelona also picked up a late goal from talisman Lionel Messi to put the win beyond any doubt, while Bayer Leverkusen was given a glimmer of hope to progress to the next round with Michal Kadlec's second-half header.
The Catalans dictated much of the play in the opening period but only claimed one goal for their efforts. It came through Sanchez four minutes before the halftime whistle.
The Chilean winger latched on to a through ball from Messi in the 41st minute and calmly slipped a shot past an on-rushing Bernd Leno that trickled into the back of the net.
Bayer Leverkusen came out in the second half rejuvenated and responded by grabbing an equalizer seven minutes after the restart.
Vedran Corluka, on loan from Tottenham, helped the home side take advantage of Barcelona's height deficiency in the back line, chipping a cross to the back post where it was met by Kadlec. The Czech Republic stalwart nodded his effort back across goal, past Victor Valdes and into the far side of the net to level the score.
The two sides were not even for long. Barcelona responded in champion fashion three minutes later with Sanchez notching his second goal of the game.
Cesc Fabregas threaded the needle with a brilliant pass to split the Leverkusen defense and find Sanchez. The 23-year-old made no mistake when he was through on goal as he skipped past Leno and finished into the empty net.
Gonzalo Castro nearly equalized for Leverkusen in the 64th minute when he broke free on the left side of the box and snapped a shot toward goal, but his effort struck the base of the far post and was cleared by the Barcelona defense.
Barcelona struck the woodwork as well as Messi nearly gave the visitors a third goal. The Argentine star beat two defenders to penetrate the right side of the penalty area and quickly chipped a sly shot over Leno, but it hit the side of the post and bounced back into the arms of the German 'keeper.
Messi eventually wrapped up the affair for Barcelona with his seventh Champions League goal of the season.
The Argentine started the move by sending a through ball to Dani Alves on the right flank. The Brazilian could have gone it alone but instead played a square ball through traffic back to Messi, who finished the scoring chance by redirecting the low cross into the net with an outstretched leg.
The reigning European champions now look well on their way to advancing to the quarterfinals as they take a 3-1 lead back to Spain.
Barcelona's three away goals mean that Leverkusen must claim a three-goal win at Camp Nou, a seemingly insurmountable task.
The two sides will play the return leg in Barcelona on March 7th.
Lyon 1, APOEL 0
Lyon, France - Lyon resumed its Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win over APOEL at the Stade de Gerland on Tuesday.
Alexandre Lacazette scored the lone goal of the match early in the second half, guiding the French club to a one-goal advantage at the midway point of the two-legged affair
APOEL goalkeeper Dionisis Chiotis was called into action often throughout the opening 45 minutes as the French side peppered the Greek stopper with a flurry of shots. Lyon failed to break through by halftime though, as the two sides went into the break scoreless.
Lyon finally put one past Chiotis and grabbed the lead in the 58th minute. Lacazette collected the ball on the left side of the box and danced inside past a couple of defenders. The French youngster unleashed a shot that took a deflection on its way past Chiotis and into the roof of the net.
Despite picking up the victory, Remi Garde's men will feel slightly disappointed that they did not further capitalize on their vast amount of scoring chances as its one-goal lead sets up a dangerous second leg in a tough environment.
Lyon will travel to Nicosia, Cyprus for the replay at GSP Stadium on March 7th.