French frontman hands Spanish giants second leg advantageKarim Benzema goal handed Real Madrid a priceless away goal as the Spaniards clinched a 1-1 draw in Lyon this evening.
The French international struck within seconds of coming off the bench, and despite Bafetimbi Gomis' late equaliser giving the Ligue 1 side a share of the spoils, Jose Mourinho's men will be regarded as favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
In front of a packed house at the Stade Gerland the hosts started the better but in truth the first half was a non-event as the likes of Yoann Gourcuff and Michel Bastos had positive ambitions, but the only chance they created came courtesy of an uncharacteristic error from Iker Casillas.
Bastos’ cross into the area was pounced upon by the Spanish international, but the ball squirmed away from his body, and Gomis had the entire goal to aim at, but blazed wildly over the crossbar, with the 'keeper perhaps redeeming himself by helping the effort over.
Madrid lacked fluency, particularly among their front four, who performed individually and could not concoct any kind of rhythm. Cristiano Ronaldo’s long-range free-kick that was comfortably fielded by Hugo Lloris was the summation of their first-half attacks.
An altogether different Madrid emerged for the second half, however, and were desperately unlucky not to find the net twice within the opening five minutes.
Supersub | Benzema came back to haunt Lyon
Firstly, Ronaldo, hammered a stunning set-piece from an acute angle that whizzed across Lloris’ goal, only to cannon back off the post and somehow elude Sergio Ramos as it flew back into play.
Then, Sergio Ramos met an Oezil corner, flicked his header across goal, and with Lloris helpless the ball bounced off the top of the bar and out to safety.
Mourinho then shuffled his pack switching Emmanuel Adebayor with Benzema, and the former Les Gones star made an instant impact to silence the crowd that used to adore him.
Excellent link up play between Oezil and Ronaldo fed the Frenchman in the area, and after feigning to shoot twice, slipped the ball between the legs of Lloris and found the net, despite the best efforts of Cris on the goal-line.
Lyon looked jaded, but Madrid failed to press home their advantage, and were made to pay when Gomis struck a priceless equaliser with seven minutes remaining.
A hopeful free-kick into the area found the head of Cris who knocked the ball into the path of Gomis, who drilled past Casillas from six yards out.
The hosts sensed the opportunity to grab an unlikely winner, one they would have barely deserved, but Mourinho’s men were able to see out the remaining moments, and with the away goal in tow, will be regarded favourites to finally banish their second-round curse.