Liverpool made it four Premier League teams in the Champions League's final eight, while Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona wouldn't fall victim to the upset bug in a two-goal, two-assist performance. 

By Jonathan Wilson
March 13, 2019

Liverpool made it a clean sweep of Premier League clubs in the round of 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday night, beating Bayern Munich 3-1 in Germany to become the fourth English side to reach the quarterfinals.

Barcelona also progressed, brushing Lyon aside with a 5-1 win at Camp Nou, paced by Lionel Messi's two goals and two assists.

In Munich, Sadio Mane had put Liverpool ahead with a superb 26th-minute strike, but an own-goal from Joel Matip brought the match level before halftime. With Bayern oddly insipid, Virgil van Dijk’s header from a corner restored the Liverpool lead, before Mane headed in his second with six minutes remaining, sending last season's runner-up through and Bayern out of the competition.

In Barcelona, the hosts, who were held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg, took the lead with a 17th-minute Messi penalty, and Philippe Coutinho added a second before halftime. Lucas Tousart pulled one back midway through the second half, but Messi restored the two-goal edge before setting up Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele late to secure Barcelona’s progress.

Liverpool and Barcelona join Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Juventus, Ajax and Porto in a final eight devoid of German and French sides and one poised to turn out some intriguing matchups come Friday's draw.

Here are three thoughts on the end of the Champions League's round of 16:

Liverpool takes advantage of a flat Bayern

Liverpool hadn’t won any of its previous five Champions League games away from Anfield, but in an often disjointed game this was a thoroughly professional performance. Bayern may be enjoying an upturn in from in the Bundesliga, but there was little sign of it here. The goal it did score, dynamic as Serge Gnabry’s run was before his cross was turned into his own net by Matip, was the result of Liverpool switching off from a free kick. For the most part, Bayern looked sluggish and uninspired.

As in the first leg, there was weirdly little quality in midfield. Both teams misplaced pass after pass. Perhaps that was testimony to how well both sides pressed, closing the space, but anxiety seemed to play a part as well. The result was a stop-start game in which neither team developed any real rhythm.

But what quality there was came largely from Liverpool. It had seemed comfortable at 1-0 after Mane’s exquisite strike and then took charge in the second half. Van Dijk’s header turned the game, but the oddity was how little pressure Bayern exerted. The expectation after the first leg had been that Liverpool would have chances on the break in the second leg as Bayern was forced to push the issue, but it was only really in the final quarter hour that such a pattern began to unfold.

Almost as soon as it did, Liverpool struck, with substitute Divock Origi working the ball wide for Mohamed Salah, whose scoop with the outside of his boot fell perfectly for Mane to score a third with a plunging header.

Mane magic sends Liverpool on its way

Very, very occasionally something happens in football that you’ve never seen before, that makes even the most jaded observer pause to try to make sense of what has just happened. Liverpool’s opening goal was one of those moments. It all unfolded just a little too quickly to understand. Did that count? Was that a goal? Why have I never seen anything like that before?

The game had begun with the sort of caginess of the first leg, but there was just a sense of Liverpool becoming first comfortable and then mildly threatening. Still, Bayern had dealt fairly comfortably with Liverpool’s probing when van Dijk lofted a straight ball forward. Liverpool had attempted a couple of passes like that before, but they are extremely difficult to play accurately. This one was perfectly weighted, but it still took the softest of touches from Mane, on the move, to bring it under control.

Manuel Neuer, as is his wont, came charging from his line but as Rafinha went charging past, undone by Mane’s control, the forward spun away from the goalkeeper and, demonstrating extraordinary confidence and awareness, floated his finish over two backtracking defenders. It was sensational.

The goal, giving the added emphasis on away goals for Liverpool after the scoreless first leg, was immense.

Messi, Barcelona ward off Lyon's upset bid

After all the shocks and upsets of the past couple of weeks, there was an air of the familiar at the Camp Nou. Or at least, there was in terms of the result as Barcelona swept into the quarterfinal. But this was not a familiar Barcelona performance. After a season in which it has dominated La Liga without looking anything like the side it was four years ago, let alone eight years ago, this felt like a statement performance. Barcelona was aggressive and cohesive and, led by Arthur, played with great intensity, overwhelming Lyon from the opening kick.

Coutinho was perhaps the biggest positive. In a season in which he has been largely peripheral, the Brazilian was far more involved on the left side of the front three and scored Barcelona’s second goal, rolling into the empty net after Luis Suarez had split two defenders and drawn the goalkeeper out.

Tousart’s deft control and volley awakened in Lyon something of the form it showed in both group games against Manchester City and briefly kindled doubts in Barcelona, especially after last season's capitulation vs. Roma. But a shimmering run from Messi calmed nerves before Messi led a break that Pique converted and did the same for Dembele, following Cristiano Ronaldo's talismanic performance Tuesday with one of his own.

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