Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Match Report:Lyon 1 Real Madrid 1

Real Madrid took a significant step towards qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years with a 1-1 draw at the Stade Gerland.

Former Lyon favourite Karim Benzema had given Madrid the lead with his first involvement in the game after coming on as a sub but Bafétimbi Gomis’ late equaliser could yet prove vital.

Jose Mourinho had made his intentions to go for the away goal clear in his team selection; Angel Di Maria selected as the Portuguese coach went for his normal 4-2-3-1 rather than switching to a more defensive 4-3-3 with an extra holding midfielder.

But it was the hosts who started on the front foot. Gomis, starting in place of the injured Lisandro Lopez, and Michel Bastos firing early warning shots before centre-back Cris went narrowly wide with an improvised overhead kick.

The visitors’ main threat was to come from set-pieces, Cristiano Ronaldo’s first effort from a free-kick beaten away by Hugo Lloris

Gomis then passed up the best opportunity of the first half. Iker Casillas spilled a relatively simple Bastos cross and the French striker blazed over from 12 yards.

Real were much stronger after the break and hit the woodwork twice in a matter of minutes. Firstly, another Ronaldo free-kick from a narrow angle smacked against Lloris’ left-hand post before Sergio Ramos’ looping header came back off the bar.

The game’s major moment of controversy arrived on 63 minutes when a third Ronaldo free-kick was handled by Yohann Gourcuff in the Lyon wall. The French international will plead his innocence but his arm was raised in an unnatural position and afterwards Mourinho was, not for the first time, furious at the officials for not awarding a penalty.

However, his side didn’t have to wait long for the opener and it was the returning hero who silenced the home fans. Benzema had been given a rapturous welcome by the home fans on his entrance to the field in place of the ineffective Emmanuel Adebayor, but within a minute he had reminded them why Florentino Perez had splashed €40million for his services. Neat footwork from Mesut Ozil and a simple pass from Ronaldo saw Benzema through on goal and after sidestepping across the six-yard box he slotted the ball beneath Lloris.

The hosts responded well and began to regain the initiative that they had held for much of the first period. And with seven minutes remaining their perseverance was rewarded with an equaliser. Miralem Pjanic’s deflected free-kick headed down by Cris and volleyed home first time by Gomis.

The draw was no more than the hosts deserved but was also a satisfactory result for Madrid given that they had lost all three previous meetings on this ground. Moreover, the away goal, that proved so vital in the tie between these two last year, allows Mourinho’s men a degree of freedom in the return. Lyon will have to come a look for a goal in three weeks time rather than just being content to defend as most teams have been at the Bernabeu this season.

FT: Lyon 1 (Gomis 83) – Real Madrid 1 (Benzema 64)

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