Lyon stun Juventus in 1st leg of Champions League tie
Lyon, Feb. 27 (IANS): Olympique Lyon held Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus without a shot on target to defeat the mighty Italian side 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League knockout stage tie.
Lyon, who last got this far in the competition 10 years ago, on Wednesday became the first French club to beat the Bianconeri in a decade and the first side of any nationality since 2004-2005 to deny Juve a shot on target in a Champions League contest, reports Efe news.
The night also saw five-time Ballon d’Or Ronaldo’s scoring streak end after 11 matches.
Currently seventh in Ligue 1, Lyon are widely seen as the weakest of the 16 teams in the knockout stage and have been poor at home.
Even so, Parc Olympique Lyonnais was packed to the rafters with 55,000-plus, including some 3,000 Juventus traveling supporters, and the home fans were rewarded with one of the squad’s best performances of the campaign.
Lyon coach Rudi Garcia deployed his men in a 3-5-2, with newcomer Bruno Guimaraes making his Champions League debut as the fifth midfielder.
Garcia’s bet turned out to be the right one. Besides taking the sting out of the high-powered Juve attack, Lyon mounted a threat of their own under the leadership of Houssem Aouar.
Aside from a Ronaldo effort in the 4th minute that was deflected away from goal, the initiative on offense belonged to Lyon, who signaled their intentions with a thunderous header by Karl Toko-Ekambi that rang off the cross-bar near the mid-point of the first half.
Minutes later, Lyon defender Maxwel Cornet had to intervene to clear a dangerous cross from Ronaldo with goalkeeper Anthony Lopes out of position.
The decisive moment came at the half-hour mark as four players collided going up for a ball. Juve defender Matthiijs de Ligt was left bleeding from his head and had to leave the pitch for treatment.
During his absence, Aouar pressed into the area and fed the ball to Lucas Tousart, who beat Juventus keeper Wojciech Szczesny from close to put hosts up 1-0.
The question heading into the second half was whether Lyon could maintain their level against a team with vastly more experience in European play.
Juventus made inroads, but posed no real threat to Lopes. With 30 minutes left, visiting coach Mauricio Sarri turned to his bench.
He replaced Miralem Pjanic with Aaron Ramsey and the Bianconeri were more dynamic with the Welshman in midfield.
Paulo Dybala looked poised to equalize for the visitors when Alex Sandro’s brilliant cross reached him in the box, yet the strike went wide.
Sarri played his two remaining cards: pulling Juan Cuadrado in favour of Gonzalo Higuain up front and subbing in Federico Bernardeschi for Adrien Rabiot in midfield.
Higuain misfired on a great opportunity and Dybala’s apparent equalizer was disallowed for an offside and the referee turned a deaf ear to Ronaldo’s plea for a penalty.