Benzema rescues point for Lyon
© AFP

Karim Benzema rescued a draw for French champions Lyon as they drew 2-2 with Italy's Fiorentina in their opening UEFA Champions League Group E match on Wednesday.

Despite picking off seven straight domestic titles Lyon have yet to show any real sign of being able to challenge for the Champions League itself, having never been past the quarter-finals.

But they did show character in coming from two goals down to bag a point which may yet prove the difference between the exit door and a place in the last 16.

It appeared that two Alberto Gilardino first half goals would hand the points to the visitors before Frederic Piquionne pulled one back amid controversy as Zauri, playing the home man onside, was still prostrate in the box after an earlier challenge.

Lyon's talented French international striker Benzema then scored with a neat right-foot drive following a short freekick by the ever-alert Juninho .

The first half had been an even affair but, in typical Italian style, Fiorentina struck just when it seemed the French were getting the upper hand.

Gilardino, completing a fleet-footed, two-pronged Italian attack alongside Romanian star Adrian Mutu, headed them in front after just 12 minutes after a mix-up in the French defence culminated in a botched clearance by Newcastle reject Jean-Alain Boumsong.

Gilardino dispatched Luciano Zauri's ensuing cross with aplomb.

Mathieu Bodmer had moments beforehand come within an ace of opening the scoring at the other end with an effort which came back off the crossbar.

In response to Gilardino's opener, Lyon veteran striker Sidney Govou forced a good save from Fiorentina's French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey.

At the other end Hugo Lloris, showing some nervous moments in the Lyon goal after taking over from Gregory Coupet, now of Atletico Madrid, did well to tip a piledriver from Sergio Almiron onto the bar as the Italians almost made it two in the 21st minute.

There followed a period of neat approach play by the fluent French, but they would pay for their lack of a killer instinct as they went two down on 42 minutes when Gilardino headed in from Felipo Melo's pinpoint cross.

"We really played well and put the pressure on in the second half after going those two goals behind. It's just a pity we couldn't come up with a third - we did have the chances, after all," said Piquionne.

One such chance saw Benzema hare down the left and create an opening for Jeremy Toulalan but Frey beat out his effort.

A late effort over the bar from Juninho also had Lyon fans on the edge of their seats but in the end they had to settle for a point - at least an improvement on last year, when they lost their first two matches 3-0.