Henry's head boosts Barca
A close range Thierry Henry second half header secured two-times champions Barcelona a 1-1 draw in Lyon to make the Catalan club favourites to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Trailing to a superb early free-kick from Juninho, Henry hurled himself forward to meet a Rafa Marquez headed flick-on following a corner on the right to secure a draw, which leaves Barca in the box seat for a place in the last-eight, with the return in the Nou Camp to come. This time last season, Lyon similarly let Manchester United off the hook and succumbed in the away return.
"I am neither disappointed not satisfied," said Lyon coach Claude Puel. "We could have and should have scored more goals in the first half but we went too much into our shell in the second-half."
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was happy to come away with an away goal. "It was a difficult evening for us, but we will go away and assess the match and what we can do to improve on that in a fortnight's time. We didn't play very well in the first-half but we pulled up our socks and performed much better in the second period and controlled the game."
The French outfit took the lead after just seven minutes when Juninho, anxious no doubt not to be overshadowed by all-star rivals fronted by mercurial Argentine Lionel Messi, curled in a free-kick from an acute angle out on the left - his 43rd set-piece goal for his club.
Barca's coach Josep Guardiola had singled out Juninho as "one of the best players in the world capable of winning a match on his own" - an observation which until Henry's 67th-minute intervention looked set to prove more accurate than he would have hoped. The French have made it through to the last-16 for the sixth straight year - but despite their domestic dominance they have never managed to push beyond the quarter-finals and that record of not pushing on to the next level threatens to endure for another year at least.
After Juninho's party piece, Samuel Eto'o came within a whisker of levelling in the 14th minute when Xavi intelligently fed him but the Cameroonian forward, in whom Lyon expressed interest last year, saw his shot thud against the post after he had slipped his marker, Cris.
Lyon, who rested several top names including striker Karim Benzema, Juninho and Fabio Grosso for a weekend win over Nancy which left the club with a six-point cushion over nearest rivals PSG, were looking for a first win over the Catalan club in five attempts. Benzema, author of a fine strike against Manchester United at this stage last season, probed busily but failed to bag his sixth goal of this year's competition to stay level with Messi, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Miroslav Klose of Bayern Munich.
One year on
Barcelona came to France with a point to prove after city rivals Espanyol beat them 2-1 at the weekend to shatter a 22-match unbeaten run. Argentine ace Messi was being kept in check by a home defence clearly wary of a man who, last season, scored in both group games which finished 2-2 in France and a 3-0 win in Barcelona as the Catalan giants made it to the semi-finals before bowing to Manchester United.
It was their hosts, however, who started out brimming with the greater energy - though Lyon keeper Hugo lloris had to be alert to smother imminent danger as Xavi looked to play in veteran Henry. Yaya Toure's foul at the other end on Ederson then saw the gloved Juninho brilliantly find the top far corner of Victor Valdes' net to draw first blood in spectacular fashion.
Barcelona, without injured former Lyon defender Eric Abidal, who will miss both matches against his former club after injuring his leg in Saturday's defeat to Espanyol, were gradually getting into the game and one surging Messi run on the half-hour only ended when Fabio Grosso fouled him to earn a caution. Having played somewhat within themselves in the opening 45 minutes, Barca began to assert themselves after the break and, after Valdes had first held another Juninho missile, opposite number Lloris made an acrobatic save from Daniel Alves.
Sergio Busquets and Carles Puyol then picked up bookings for the visitors before Barca showed their creative side with another thrilling Messi slalom run which saw Jeremey Toulalan block his shot just prior to Henry's goal. Lyon coach Claude Puel withdrew the rapidly tiring Juninho with 13 minutes remaining, sending on Swede Kim Kallstrom but despite a furious finale they were unable to get their noses back in front.