Champions League - Lyon claim slender advantage
A second-half strike from Alexandre Lacazette saw Lyon claim a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their last 16 tie with APOEL Nicosia at Stade de Gerland.
Lacazette struck in the 58th minute with a deflected effort to separate the sides as Lyon dominated in what was the first appearance of a Cypriot club in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
The visitors defended doggedly throughout to limit the deficit to a solitary goal, and the French side could be left to rue not building further on their possession as they look ahead to the challenge of defending their slender advantage in the second leg in Nicosia.
Lyon coach Remi Garde sprung a couple of surprises, handing starts to Lacazette and Ederson at the expense of Jimmy Briand and Bafetimbi Gomis, while Cris and Kim Kallstrom returned for Lyon with Lisandro occupying the lone-striking berth.
The hosts were left irate after they were denied a clear penalty in the third minute: Ederson forced his way into the APOEL box, only to be hauled down clumsily by Nuno Morais. Referee Paolo Tagliavento ignored the vociferous appeals for a spot kick.
Lyon piled on the pressure and could have created a goalscoring opportunity in the 20th minute as Lacazette made an incisive run beyond the visitors’ back four, but Ederson crucially dallied and played the through ball too late with his team-mate caught offside.
It was Lacazette’s turn to be profligate on the half-hour mark as he jinked inside two challenges on the edge of the APOEL box, only to blast a wild shot over the crossbar with just a relieved Dionisios Chiotis to beat.
By the end of the first half, Lyon had mustered 13 shots on target while the visitors had yet to draw a save from Hugo Lloris, but the Cypriot side could have made much better use of a dangerous free kick on the edge of the hosts’ box as Ailton blasted over.
APOEL’s defending was unerring and wholehearted and the commitment of the visitors was epitomised by Paulo Jorge, who made a stunning last-ditch challenge to clear off the line as Ederson rounded Chiotis and slid a precise shot towards the corner of the empty net seconds after the break.
But Lyon did manage to break through in the 58th minute as the marauding Cris picked out Lacazette on the left edge of the penalty area, and the midfielder proceeded to fire a low drive which took a vicious deflection off Jorge and beyond a helpless Chiotis.
Lacazette was promptly replaced by Briand as coach Remi Garde shuffled his pack, and the hosts continued to press forward incessantly in search of a second to stamp their authority on the tie.
Yoann Gourcuff replaced Ederson late on as Lyon dictated the play in terms of possession, and within minutes of coming on the playmaker had a free header inside the APOEL box from Michel Bastos’s cross, but he could only direct his effort tamely wide.
Despite their domination of the ball, the French side were unable to muster a second goal as APOEL defended obdurately deep inside their half in the final stages of the match and the visitors were the happier at the full-time whistle.
Lyon had failed to win any of their last five Champions League knockout stage matches, but Garde’s side’s victory ensured that they made a strong start to the tie ahead of an undoubtedly tricky second leg at the GSP-Stadion.