first team / Rangers 0-3 OL

The adventure continues!

Published on the 12 December 2007 à 23:08 by BV

Olympique Lyonnais has reached the knockout phase of the Champions League. At the end of a tough, heart-stopping match, the Olympiens assured themselves a place among Europe's top 16 clubs. A real feat!

As they have done for the past 5 seasons, the Olympiens will take part in the final phase of the most prestigious of club competitions. For the third time in 5 years, OL will be the only French representative in this stage of the competition. But this trend masks some facts: this time around, qualifying was a real struggle, for several reasons. 1. Alain Perrin's men did what Barcelona, Porto and Inter Milan couldn't: they won at Ibrox, Rangers' fortress. 2. Rangers' win at Gerland, a strong performance, meant that no-one was expecting OL to win in Scotland, and especially not by such a big margin. 3. On the night of that loss, you would have had to be a die-hard fan or a lunatic to imagine that the champions of France would make it to the next phase, 6 points behind their Scottish rivals as they were. Bit by bit, they clawed their way back into contention. Slow and steady wins the race… Rangers and OL bear witness to that fact.

And, symbolically, it was the oldest Olympien on the field who made the break for his team; one of the players who is the heart and soul of the side. Hatem ben Arfa played Karim Benzema into space, and the young striker fired powerfully from a tight angle, forcing a McGregor to block the ball into the path of Govou, who slotted home (16'). Sid's opener erased any guilt hem ay have felt after missing his one-on-one with the Scottish keeper when put clean through by Juninho (5'). McGregor turned Juninho's free kick wide (10') and then Hemdani and Cuellar came terribly close to scoring an own goal (11'). Karim Benzema fired wide on three occasions (28', 30' and 36').

At the break, the one-goal advantage rested with the more enterprising, committed and talented side; Ferguson and co weren't really up to much in the first half. At the start of the match, Rémy Vercoutre had 'only' to block a double effort from McCulloch and Papac (20').

The break gave the 'Gers a chance to lift their game at the same time as the Olympiens seemed to freeze up somewhat, sitting back on their lead. The battle changed in nature but the same side was still on top. Toto Squillaci cleared off the line from Huton's cross-shot (50'). Vercoutre watched Thompson's long-distance effort fizz wide and then repulsed another shot from McCulloch (73'). Their biggest chance: Darcheville, unmarked in the area, managed to hit the bar above the open net (79').

The end of the match was tense, thanks to the Olympiens, who took their time in killing off the match. AS has so often been the case this season, salvation came in the form of Karim Benzema, who scored a lte double (85' and 88'). Before that, Juninho had hit the bar with a free kick (58'), Govou had scuffed his shot (72') and Karim had rounded McGregor but forgot Whittaker who back-pedalled to save of the line (79').

It's in adversity that the brave achieve the greatest things, and in so doing forge their team. The adventure continues… The Olympiens know they won't have an easy time of it in the knockout phase as they will face a group winner. But who cares! At Ibrox, OL scored one of the most resounding and important victories in the history of the club, perhaps a win that will lay the foundation for much future success. The kind of win that makes you love football and captures your imagination…
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