14 points from a possible 18, indisputably a great record even if the last two games were draws, one of which came at home to Steaua Bucharest.
All the same, OL can regret not being able to topple a tricky and well-organised Steaua Bucharest team. The French champions made life hard for themselves from the outset by conceding in the second minute. Left alone near the penalty spot, Dica acrobatically turned in Paraschiv’s centre to cast a pall over the Stade Gerland. Ten minutes later, Alou Diarra put his team back on level terms with a thumping header. The 15th OL goal from a set piece this season and the first for the France international since his arrival at the club.
The French champions had worked hard to redress the deficit. In his first start for the season, Hatem Ben Arfa methodically tormented Stancu. With his sharp turns and step-overs, the Lyon youngster was the main danger for Steaua but neither his centre for John Carew (8’) nor his breakthrough in the centre of the park that ended with a shot drawn wide (11’) could make the difference before Diarra’s header (11’) Keen to compound his strong recent performance against Auxerre, Diarra hashed his shot on goal from the edge of the area (19’). A one-goal advantage would have been a just reward for OL’s efforts but a severe punishment for the Romanians, rarely put in serious danger, and who could have scored another goal if French striker Cyril Théréau, at the far post, had been able to reach the rebound from Cristocea’s shot (13’).
Dica began the second half as began the first but contrived to put his shots high into the Lyon sky (48’ and 55’), as did Marin (51’) and Nicolita (52’). At the other end, Dica sent another scare through the Stade Gerland but Coupet was equal to the task (69e). Wary of losing their exemplary record and domination of Group E, OL quickly regained control of the ball, heaping pressure on the Steaua goal. Kim Källström saw his acrobatic shot fizz just to the left of the post, while Ben Arfa’s powerful shot veered right of the target (56’) before his cut-back centre found the right boot of Sidney Govou (59’). Amid applause from the Gerland for having secured their qualification fort he round of 16, Wiltord took the field in place of Carew and shot over the bar (72’) before Claudio saw his header saved (75’).
Despite the appearance of Toulalan and Rémy, the men from Bucharest contained all of Lyon’s attacking moves until the end of the game. « Thank you OL » sang the fans at the top of their lungs, fulfilled by their team’s glorious European campaign so far. . They will meet their heroes again in February 2007 for an adventure they hope is long and emblazoned with glory.
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