Henry uses home advantage to put Barca in driving seat

THIERRY Henry earned Barcelona a draw on his return to France with a second-half equaliser against Lyon in a thrilling Champions League last-16 first leg at the Stade Gerland last night.

Les Bleus’ all-time leading scorer headed home in the 67th minute to give the Spanish side a precious away goal, putting them in the driving seat ahead of the second leg in a fortnight’s time at the Nou Camp. Barca deserved a share of the spoils although they were dominated early on by Lyon, who opened the scoring in the seventh minute through midfielder Juninho’s free-kick.

However, once Pep Guardiola’s side weathered the early storm, they were comfortably the better team.

Lyon went ahead with their first effort, an outrageous free-kick by set-piece expert Juninho. Fouled out on the left wing, just five yards in from the touchline, no-one — not least Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes – would have expected the Brazilian to shoot from that position. But he did and the ball dipped and curled over the beleaguered custodian and into the top right-hand corner.

Rather than sit back and defend their lead, Lyon poured forward and over-ran the visitors in midfield.

Efforts on goal rained in, with Karim Benzema dribbling a shot wide from an excellent position, Ederson shooting over and Jean Makoun also missing the target.

Both sides then hit the woodwork. Samuel Eto’o was the first, Barca’s Cameroon striker pouncing on a mistake by Cris and sending a toe-poke against the post on 15.

Benzema, looking very dangerous on the break, then cut inside 25 yards out and curled a right-foot shot on to the post with Valdes well beaten.

The intensity dropped slightly in the final 15 minutes of the first half, allowing the Blaugrana to finally have time and space on the ball.

Apart from a header from Sergio Busquets that flew over, they did not create a clear-cut chance, but Lyon were grateful to hear the half-time whistle.

They comfortably survived the first exchanges of the second half until Daniel Alves’ 58th-minute free-kick, which took a deflection off Fabio Grosso, had to be superbly beaten out by Les Gones keeper Hugo Lloris, who was flawless all night.

Having successfully stifled Barca’s free-flowing game in open play, Lyon will have been disappointed to concede a goal in the 67th minute from a set-piece.

Xavi Hernandez sent in a corner from the right that Rafael Marquez flicked on, and Henry was there at the back post to stoop and head in.

That was it as far as goalscoring chances were concerned, although Barca continued to boss possession until the final whistle.

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