Friday, December 7, 2012

7 December 2011 - Lyon Beats The Odds

On 7 December 2011, Lyon advanced in the Champions League despite starting the day from what seemed to be an impossible position.

It was the last day of the group stage and Lyon were in third, behind leaders Real Madrid and second-place Ajax. Lyon were three points behind the Dutch and needed both an Ajax loss and a win of their own over Dinamo Zagreb in order to draw level on points. But the challenge did not stop there. They also needed to make up a 7-goal gap in differential, which was a tough ask given that Lyon had scored only twice in their other five group stage matches (both against Zagreb).

Playing at Dinamo's Stadion Maksimir, the hill grew even steeper after Zagreb took the lead with a 40th-minute goal from midfielder Mateo Kovačić (despite losing midfielder Jerko Leko to a 28th-minute red card). But Bafétimbi Gomis equalized for Lyon just before the break.

The second half belonged to Lyon. By the 70th minute, they were up 1-6 with a goal from Maxime Gonalons (47'), one from Lisandro López (64'), and three more from Gomis (48', 52', 70'). At the same time, Real Madrid were on top of Ajax 0-2, bringing Lyon level with the Dutch on goal differential. Then Jimmy Briand pushed Lyon ahead with a final goal against Zagreb in the 75th minute and Real Madrid added another against Ajax in stoppage time to put Ajax's differential at zero and Lyon's at +2.

Lyon's reward for the improbable result was a trip to the Round of 16, where they were eliminated on penalties by APOEL.

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