Messi helps Barcelona reach Champions League quarters

Barcelona: 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 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 on Wednesday 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.

“Cristiano yesterday was impressive,” Messi said afterwards. “It was a big surprise because I thought Atletico would be stronger but Cristiano had a magical night.”  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 them off before half-time.

Yet Lucas Tousart’s volley left Lyon one goal away from putting Barcelona out, only for Messi to take charge again. 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.

“When he is at that kind of level, he is almost unstoppable,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said. “We did what we could.” Barcelona 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 was 2010 and after defeats for Atletico and Real Madrid, it was up to Barca to avert a first Spanish blackout 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. The Brazilian was bright, enjoying one of his best performances in weeks.

“In the last few weeks, months even, I’ve not been playing well,” Coutinho said. “You never know what the future holds but I am happy with my performance. He has come in after not such a good run,” said coach Ernesto Valverde. “It was an important match for him and he played very well.”