Lyon spoil Benzema's return

Lyon ruined former striker Karim Benzema's return to his boyhood club by beating Real Madrid 1-0 in their last 16 UEFA Champions League first leg clash.

The defeat will add to the woes of Real's Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini, who is under pressure to return European football's most coveted trophy to the Santiago Bernabeu following the triumph of fierce rivals Barcelona in the competition last year. Defeat continued Real's desperate record at Lyon's ground, a place where they have never won or even found the net.

This evening the supporters saw that when we are up against the best players in the world we can match them.
Sidney Govou

Lyon coach Claude Puel has been under pressure of late as the fans have taken the view that he is too negative in his strategy, but the former Monaco and Lille handler was sporting a beaming smile after this victory. "It was a very good performance, but I wouldn't class it as a great achievement," said Puel. "It's a shame we didn't score a second one as I thought we outplayed them in the second-half."

Lyon forward Sidney Govou admitted that at times they hadn't been at their best in the league, but that they had shown what they were capable of against Real. "Collectively we are very happy," said the France international. "This evening the supporters saw that when we are up against the best players in the world we can match them."

Pellegrini said that Real could easily overturn the deficit back in their territory. "This evening Lyon outmuscled us," said 56-year-old Pellegrini, who gained the Real hotseat on the back of an impressive five year spell at Spanish rivals Villarreal. "We just didn't know how to cope. It isn't obviously a great result for us.

"We conceded a goal and failed to score one ourselves. We have to be more disciplined in the second leg and do to them as they did to us this evening. I am certain that we can achieve that and win the tie. I don't believe the same demons that have plagued the side in recent seasons in this competition and seen us go out in the last 16 on five successive occasions have returned."

Real superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had a quiet game by his high standards, being eased out of the game by some terrific Lyon tackling and marking, but he also kept the faith that Real would ultimately prevail. "There is no need to worry, losing happens in football," said the world's most expensive footballer.

Real have lost at this stage in the past five seasons. That's going to change, okay.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo

"We are remaining confident, we can win the second leg and qualify, we have enough experience. Real have lost at this stage in the past five seasons. That's going to change, okay."

The French side's breakthrough came immediately after half-time when Cameroonian midfielder, Jean II Makoun, picked up the ball from deep and powered through a retreating Madrid defence to hit a dipping shot over a stranded Iker Casillas.

Real were not without their chances, but the multi-million-euro Spanish side could not penetrate a resilient Lyon defence despite enjoying most of the possession. Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain missed a glorious chance when he was clean through on 62 minutes, but the French-born star could only fire his shot directly at the oncoming Hugo Lloris.

Real threw everything at the seven-time French champions as they went in search of an equaliser and defender Sergio Ramos headed over the crossbar on 80 minutes from a Kaka corner. Cristiano Ronaldo had a penalty appeal turned down five minutes earlier when he fell under a challenge from the Lyon keeper. Lyon old boy Benzema, on as a substitute, had one opportunity to snatch a vital away goal but he could only screw his shot wide.

The victory means Claude Puel's men remain unbeaten in all competitions in 2010, while Real face an uphill battle to reach the quarter-finals. Lyon travel to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium - where the final will be held later in the year - for the second leg on 10 March. Real Madrid will be without midfielder Xavi Alonso and left-back Marcelo through suspension.