LYON - Real Madrid's Karim Benzema
was cheered by his former Olympique Lyon fans when he came off
the bench but 43 seconds later they were stunned into silence as
he opened the scoring in a 1-1 Champions League first-leg draw.
The very best Hollywood scriptwriter would have struggled to
have penned it better and although Bafetimbi Gomis grabbed an
equaliser after 83 minutes, Real managed to take something away
from the Stade Gerland for the first time in four visits.
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Nine times winners Real have gone out in the first knockout
round in each of the last six seasons, including here in
France's third city last year, but after the swiftest of
big-stage cameos they are now in the driving seat.
Benzema, who helped Lyon win four Ligue 1 titles before
joining Real in 2009, wriggled through in the box to slot home
after 65 minutes. After the match the Frenchman gave his shirt
to some adoring Lyon fans who forgave him for doing his duty.
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"It's a great result because we are away from home, it was
an important goal for the team. It's a really, really good
moment," the striker said, eyeing the return leg on March 16.
"I didn't celebrate, I respect everyone here. It's the first
time I've scored a goal so quickly."
Real coach Jose Mourinho rarely stays out of the limelight
and his decision to use Benzema as an impact substitute rather
than start him on his former ground paid dividends, even if he
was more bothered about a penalty not given for handball.
"There are four eyes (between the referee and his goal-line
assistant). It could be decisive. Let's hope it does not cost
Real Madrid qualification," said the Portuguese.
"I feel it was a real Champions League match with all the
difficulties involved in that. I'm hopeful of course, everything
is open. Lyon are a good team, they have good players, a good
coach. But it's 1-1 and we play at home."
Lyon made the brighter start with lively Brazil winger
Michel Bastos, who will miss the Bernabeu game because of
suspension, constantly troubling Real's backline.
Gomis was glad he finally got on the scoresheet with a
tap-in after his 34th minute effort with the goal gaping was
deflected over following a Bastos cross which goalkeeper Iker
Casillas failed to gather on the slippery surface.
Real had others chances too in the rain, Cristiano Ronaldo
forcing Hugo Lloris into a smart save with a free kick in a rare
moment of class from the off-colour winger.
The Portuguese though did later hit the post with another
free kick and Sergio Ramos rattled the bar with a header soon
Lyon boss Claude Puel, whose side reached the semi-finals
last term, thinks their strange jinx over Real can continue.
"It's a good result tonight. We know what we have to do in
three weeks," he said.
"We finished stronger than them and it's good that we
levelled with a team like that. We wanted to avoid conceding
but... we have been left with an opportunity to qualify. We know
we'll have chances there."
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