Real escapes from Lyon's den

José Mourinho breaks Spanish team's jinx in Stade Gerland with 1-1 tie

It was a partial victory - in three previous meetings between Lyon and Real Madrid in Stade Gerland the Spanish team was beaten 3-0, 2-0 and 1-0 - but José Mourinho is canny enough to know that a 1-1 tie is little guarantee of breaking his side's run of six straight exits at the first knock-out round of the Champions League.

"It will be hard for Lyon," the Portuguese opined ahead of the return leg on March 16. "But in my opinion it's 50-50." Had the rub of the green gone Real's way in France, Mourinho's bookmaking would have been considerably more optimistic.

Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos hit the woodwork early in the second half and Real should have been awarded a penalty when Yoann Gourcuff raised his arm in the area. Nonetheless, Mourinho did enjoy a slice of good fortune in Real's goal: substituting Emmanuel Adebayor, who had been isolated in a match governed more by motion than muscle, for Karim Benzema was the right decision.

Mourinho: "It will be hard for Lyon but in my opinion it's 50-50"

That the former Lyon striker, afforded an ovation by his old fans, took less than a minute to score after his introduction and was falling to the floor in ungainly fashion when he did so, was the smile of luck that eluded Real in the tie last season.

Lyon capitalized on its first-leg advantage to seal passage to the last eight with a 2-1 aggregate victory, with the woodwork again conspiring to deny Real. Gonzalo Higuaín's shot, which ricocheted to safety, would have seen Real through. On such margins are knock-out ties decided and although Mourinho's side will go through if the second leg is goalless he will trust that his side can draw confidence from the Bernabéu crowd to score early as it did, through Ronaldo, last season.

Lyon, though, has proved it does not allow its head to drop, coming from behind on Tuesday evening as it had done in the last meeting between the two sides.

Mourinho may opt for a more aggressive back four in Madrid, having witnessed the turbulent evening Michel Bastos presented his defense. The Real coach opted to leave Marcelo, Bastos' understudy for Brazil, on the bench in favor of the less adventurous presence of Álvaro Arbeloa.

It is on the right flank that Real's defensive failings are more often exploited. Ramos' reckless entrances place him top of the ranking for cards in Europe, closely followed by Xabi Alonso. Mourinho was forced to order the pair to get themselves dismissed against Ajax in the group stage so as to serve a one-match ban in the final group game, a meaningless exercise against Auxerre.

It took Ramos just nine minutes to add another yellow to his felonious collection, limiting his ability to impose himself defensively under a concerted onslaught from Bastos and César Delgado. He was also at fault for Lyon's goal, playing Bafétimbi Gomis onside when the French striker was left unattended in Real's penalty area after the rest of the defense had stepped up.

"It was a good result tonight," Lyon coach Claude Puel said. "We finished stronger than them and it's good that we equalized against a team like that. We wanted to avoid conceding but we have been left with an opportunity to qualify. We know what we have to do in three weeks."

José Mourinho.
José Mourinho.EFE
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