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Sanchez stars as Barca beat Bayer

ESPN staff
February 14, 2012 « Southampton rally to draw with West Ham | Chartbeat test »
Barcelona players celebrate Alexis Sanchez's goal © Getty Images
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Barcelona shrugged off talk of a crisis by taking control of their Champions League last-16 clash with Bayer Leverkusen.

The Catalans were beaten by Osasuna in La Liga at the weekend, losing ground on Real Madrid in the process, but they puffed out their chest to claim a 3-1 win over Bayer in the first leg.

It was not a vintage performance from Barca, although it was tough to express themselves given the defensive nature of Bayer, but they took control when Alexis Sanchez fired them in front. Bayer hit back through Michal Kadlec at the start of the second half, but the champions sealed a first-leg advantage when Sanchez grabbed a second and Lionel Messi helped himself to a late third.

Bayer attempted to keep a tight leash on Messi, but he produced a moment of magic on 32 minutes with a deft pass over the top that Sanchez galloped on to before slotting the ball under keeper Bernd Leno.

Bayer showed more attacking intent in the second half and Kadlec climbed high to head home Vedran Corluka's excellent cross.

The goal from Bayer stung Barca into action and Sanchez collected a delicious pass from Cesc Fabregas and rounded Leno before slotting home.

Messi came close to scoring a stunner, as he danced past two defenders and teased a lob over Leno that hit a post, while Barca had Victor Valdes to thank for pushing a fierce drive from Gonzalo Castro on to a post.

With time ticking down, Messi did get his name on the scoresheet, as he turned in from eight yards after Dani Alves opted to unselfishly square the ball with only the keeper to beat.

Alexandre Lacazette's deflected goal gave Lyon a much-needed 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League clash with APOEL Nicosia.

APOEL, the first Cypriot side to reach the last 16, showed no attacking intent - they did not have a shot until the 88th minute - and looked for much of the match like they might hang on.

But Lacazette struck after 58 minutes to give some relief to Lyon, whose poor domestic form has seen them slip 11 points adrift of leaders Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1.

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