Pjanic gets Lyon off to a flyer
© AFP

Lyon celebrated opening their tenth successive season in the UEFA Champions League with a 1-0 win over old foes Fiorentina on Wednesday.

The Italians, knocked out of last year's first round by Lyon, had to play the entire second period with ten men after Italian FIFA World Cup™ winner Alberto Gilardino was sent packing for elbowing Lyon midfielder Jeremy Toulalan. Lyon midfielder Miralem Pjanic earned the former multiple French champions the three points when the Bosnia-Herzegovina international pounced in the final quarter of an hour.

Lyon's fears over the fitness of new Argentina signing Lisandro Lopez proved unfounded, with the prolific striker returning after sitting out his club's weekend win over Lorient. But central defender Mathieu Bodmer was missing, with Toulalan teaming up with Brazilian Cris in the back. Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli welcomed back Adrian Mutu, the Romania international fit after recovering from a thigh problem.

The Italians, who came away from this corresponding fixture last season with a 2-2 draw, had the better of the opening exchanges without being able to capitalise on their possession. On 26 minutes Lyon coach Claude Puel was forced into an unscheduled substitution when Brazilian winger Michel Bastos picked up an injury and had to make way for Sidney Govou.

Lisandro, who has made such a strong start to his new career at the Stade Gerland, caught the eye on 34 minutes but not in the way he would have wanted after getting booked for a challenge on Gianluca Comotto. The subsequent free-kick was headed high by Alessandro Gamberini.

Pjanic was the next man for a yellow card after a back flick on Ricardo Montolivo, sending the Fiorentina player tumbling dramatically to the turf. Lyon though once again had little to fear from the ensuing setpiece. Cameroon midfielder Jean II Makoun was then relieved when his deflected shot came to rest on Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris' top netting.

Lyon had the ball in the back of the net minutes before half-time only for the goal to be disallowed after referee Pieter Vink judged it had crossed the line. Fiorentina went a man down on the stroke of half-time after Gilardino's red card ensuring a testing second period for the men from Tuscany.

Lyon emerged for the break eager to make their numerical supremacy count and Lisandro's right-footed angled shot on 51 minutes had Sebastien Frey in the Fiorentina goal worried. Mutu made way for Fiorentina's Montenegro star Stevan Jovetic shortly after with Puel swopping Bafetimbi Gomis for Argentina winger Cesar Delgado.

Lyon's pressure finally paid off in the 76th minute when after a neat multi-man build-up Kim Kallstrom sent in a tight-angled shot from the right with the ball rebounding off Frey's outstretched fingers to Pjanic who calmly slotted home.

As Fiorentina wilted Lyon could have easily pulled further clear only for heroics from Frey to keep the deficit to the minimum but the home side had to withstand a nervy final onslaught before bagging the points to go joint top of Group E with Liverpool.