Barcelona’s low-scoring run continued as they were held to a 0-0 draw away to Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
The usually free-scoring Catalan giants drew three games in a row before battling to a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday, scoring only four goals across the four games.
Three of those came from Lionel Messi, including two penalties, but the Argentina star was unable to add to his tally against a stubborn Lyon side who were without their suspended captain and top scorer Nabil Fekir.
The visitors could have opened the scoring in the first minute when Ousmane Dembele found himself in space on the left-hand side of the penalty area, but the 21-year-old flashed a half-volley wide of the post.
And just two minutes later Lyon’s fans must have feared the worst when Houssem Aouar brought down Messi just outside the area, only for Messi to uncharacteristically fire the free-kick harmlessly over the bar.
Aouar, who was shown a yellow card for the foul, then drew a good save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen at the other end before the Barcelona goalkeeper produced an even better one to tip Martin Terrier’s swerving free-kick onto the bar before gratefully gathering the rebound.
An end-to-end contest was producing plenty of chances and Ivan Rakitic curled a shot wide after being set up by Sergi Roberto, while Messi was also off target following a delightful one-two with Jordi Alba.
Lyon looked dangerous on the counter-attack and almost broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute when Memphis Depay flashed a half-volley just wide, while at the other end Messi’s shot was parried by Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde replaced Dembele with Philippe Coutinho as his side sought a first away win in the knockout stages since 2016, but Luis Suarez was inches away from connecting with a ball that was fizzed across goal and Lopes was again equal to a shot from Messi.
Messi’s night was summed up as he twice fired shots into Lyon’s defensive wall from a last-minute free-kick and the home side deservedly held on to keep a clean sheet and leave the tie in the balance.