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Real Madrid hadn't advanced to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League since 2004, nor had they ever defeated Lyon, but both of those streaks were broken tonight at the Santiago Bernabeu. Los Merengues produced an emphatic 3-0 victory at home, winning the tie 4-1 on aggregate. Madrid will now await Friday's draw to see who they will play in their first quarterfinal in more than half of a decade.
Cristiano Ronaldo didn't exactly look 90 minutes fit, but it didn't matter, as most of his teammates were absolutely brilliant. Karim Benzema, Marcelo, and Angel Di Maria all scored very well-deserved goals, while Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso outplayed their counterparts on the other side in the center of midfield. Mesut Özil was influential, though somewhat quietly, and Madrid defended exceptionally well. It was a complete performance and one that Jose Mourinho and the fans can be proud of. It was fantastic from whistle to whistle, while Lyon were equally disappointing. Only the great goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris kept the home side from scoring five or six times.
The tie was basically squared away when Karim Benzema scored in the 66th minute, but Angel Di Maria has completely wrapped it up in the 76th with a pretty goal that put the exclamation point on a fantastic performance by Real Madrid. For the first time since 2004, Los Merengues will be going through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League.
Mesut Özil was the man who provided the assist for Di Maria, but hardly in traditional fashion. This time, it was a header that send Di Maria through as opposed to one of his trademark flicks or through balls. Di Maria still had plenty of work when he got onto the ball, though, and did well to beat his defender and Hugo Lloris with a tidy finish.
Real Madrid have made two substitutions, bringing Emmanuel Adebayor into the game for Cristiano Ronaldo shortly before the goal, and Esteban Granero for Angel Di Maria just after the goal.
After 66 minutes, Karim Benzema finally has the goal that he's deserved for quite some time. He's been fantastic all game, but had somehow failed to notch a goal or an assist. That's changed now, and Real Madrid have a 2-0 lead on the night, 3-1 on aggregate.
Before the goal, it seemed like every single time Benzema did something really good, someone had to ruin it. Hugo Lloris and the linesman have been the biggest offenders so far, but in the 64th minute, Benzema got introduced to former teammate Anthony Reveillere, another noted fun-sucker. Reveillere dispossessed Benzema in the box, knocking him down in the process, but the tackle was completely clean.
Benzema got the last laugh, though, as he scored a great effort to all but put the game to rest. Lyon defender Cris fell asleep on the goal, and Benzema finished well. Marcelo provided him with an assist, which he was able to do because the ball was given away to him by Reveillere, just minutes after his spectacular tackle.
It's taking some time for both teams to settle into the game in the second half, which could quite possibly be by design. I'll never rule such a thing out when Jose Mourinho is on one of the benches. I'm not a betting man, but I'd be shocked if the current Vegas line on a Lyon goal was less than 20/1. They don't have a snowball's chance in hell. Real Madrid have them completely shut down.
While Madrid have looked considerably less ambitious to start this half than they were start the game, they're still doing a much better job of creating chances than Lyon are. After 15 minutes of play in the second half, the visitors are creating absolutely nothing. However, Madrid do have a couple of decent efforts. Mesut Özil and Karim Benzema played a nice one-two exchange in the 52nd minute, but Özil took an ill-advised shot when Cristiano Ronaldo was unmarked nearby. Ronaldo would get a chance of his own in the 57th minute, but he blasted it over the bar.
Hugo Lloris had been having a great half for Lyon before this moment of brilliance from Marcelo, mastery that started far up the pitch before the Real Madrid left back sees a Lyon defender go to his back, unloading from just within the penalty area for the first goal of the match. With it, Real Madrid went up 2-1 in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League tie with Lyon, meaning a late, surprising goal (like the one that stung Los Blancos last year) would only force extra time.
But that's context. This is reality, video of Marcelo's goal:
The announcers may have exaggerated the importance of the goal, but it was still an important strike. Real Madrid had been the better side, though toward the middle of the half they had let Lyon come back into the match. Marcelo's goal not only cut open the Lyon defense, it also affirmed Madrid's place as the squad that was dictating the match.
Without the goal, the match was in danger of playing out last years, when Lyon advanced after a late goal.
At the halftime break, Lyon has opted to make a substitution, bringing on Bafetimbi Gomis for Jimmy Briand. It's a like for like swap, with both players being fairly large but also balanced strikers, but it should almost certainly be a positive change. Briand was highly ineffective in the first half. It might hurt Claude Puel to make a non-tactical change so early in the match, without being required to do so by injury, but it was clear that Briand had to go, and good for him for not waiting the customary 60 minutes. Lyon don't have 15 minutes to waste.
Still, despite the positive change, it's unlikely that it's going to have a very dramatic effect on Lyon. Real Madrid are simply the better team, and Lyon are probably going to require a very bad mistake or a set piece to score. A set piece goal is what they got in the first game, but it's hard to believe that a Jose Mourinho team will gift Lyon a goal in this situation with an awful mistake.
It's been fairly simple for Real Madrid so far, with Lyon failing to provide a great deal of opposition in their 2011 UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second leg tie. Real Madrid only have one goal, but that's due to the brilliance of Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and a fairly conservative approach by Jose Mourinho. Madrid are not playing a defensive or negative style of play, but they have found exactly the right balance between creativity and organization thus far. Though Lloris has saved a few possible goals, Marcelo was able to find the back of the net in spectacular fashion, and his goal is the difference between the two teams.
In the second half, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see Jose Mourinho have his team set up in an even more defensive fashion, possibly bringing on Alvaro Arbeloa and moving Marcelo up into midfield. However, Marcelo looked like he may have picked up a slight injury at the end of the second half, so it's possible that he can't continue. Regardless, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are good enough to create chances by themselves, so Madrid can afford to put a few men behind the ball.
Real Madrid should have had a couple of more goals for halftime, but today seems to be a bit of a bad luck day for former Lyon striker and current Real Madrid No. 9, Karim Benzema. He's struck up a great partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo, but he's had all of the chances he's created in some capacity either saved by Hugo Lloris or not converted thanks to pure bad luck.
Benzema had two opportunities near the end of the first half, but somehow, neither ended up turning into goals. In the 41st minute, the Frenchman hit a blinder at the goal, which was absolutely brilliantly saved by Lloris. Just one minute later, it appeared that he had headed in Madrid's second goal on the night, but he was rightfully flagged for offsides.
At this point, Benzema could easily have two goals and two assists. Ronaldo and Marcelo have looked more flashy, but Benzema has had just as much influence on the game. He's having a fantastic game and if he doesn't end this one with a goal or an assist, it will be very unfortunate.
Real Madrid's Brazilian attacking left back has scored a wonder goal, putting the ball into the back of the net after two fantastic exchanges with his teammates, followed by a brilliant individual effort. Lyon can still force extra time with just one goal, but Madrid's goal means that an outright win for Lyon would be absolutely shocking at this point. Madrid are now up 2-1 on aggregate, and based on the mostly one way play in this game, it would be surprising if they relinquished that lead.
The goal came in th 37th minute, and it seemed like Marcelo was determined to score when the move started. At around the halfway line, the Brazilian exchanged passes with Xabi Alonso before continuing forward, cutting into the middle. He found another teammate to help him along, and played another one-two combination, this time with Cristiano Ronaldo, before surging towards the penalty area. Marcelo then beat two defenders with some spectacular dribbling moves, setting up a left footed curler from just outside the penalty area. Hugo Lloris got a fingertip to it, but he never really had a chance.
Real Madrid now have a deserved lead, and Marcelo has a goal he'll always remember.
Lyon have woken up a bit, but they're still second best to Real Madrid. They had a decent spell where they made Madrid work for about five minutes, but that five minutes might get all that they get for a long time, and they could very well live to regret not doing anything with their spell of possession.
In the 22nd minute, Aly Cisshoko squared a great ball from the left flank to the top of the penalty area, setting Cesar Delgado up for a shot. Delgado's shot was a decent one and forced a save out of Iker Casillas, but the resulting corner was disappointing. The set piece delivery continued to be a disappointment in the 24th minute, when Yoann Gourcuff somehow failed to get a free kick from 35 yards out into the box. Lyon kept their pressure up through the 26th minute when Sergio Ramos was forced into an awkward clearance of a good cross from Anthony Reveillere, but once again, nothing came of the corner.
The tables turned just after that, when Hugo Lloris was forced into an excellent save on a high shot on target from Cristiano Ronaldo. Angel Di Maria appeared to be making a dangerous run into the box shortly after that, but Dejan Lovren dispossessed him with a crunching tackle that was both very physical and unbelievably, clean. Ricardo Carvalho's tackling seems to be a little less precise, and he was booked for bringing down Delgado in the 30th minute.
As if Jose Mourinho told the players to calm down and remember that a 0-0 draw is all they need, Real Madrid have let their foot off the gas slightly. Hugo Lloris was forced into a save on a Cristiano Ronaldo header from a free kick, but that's been about the only serious action in recent minutes. Real are no longer looking for the kill, but Lyon aren't looking the least bit dangerous either. This could be a classic Jose Mourinho Champions League match.
And don't act like you didn't know this might happen. The Real Madrid board and fans have a history of demanding beautiful football, but at this point, I think they're a little bit more concerned with winning trophies. Jose Mourinho is a guy who has won this trophy twice and lost another final on penalties, so it's safe to say he knows what he's doing. All hail The Special One.
It's been all Real Madrid in the opening 15 minutes from the Santiago Bernabeu, as they're absolutely taking the game to Lyon. The visitors came to Spain knowing that any score draw would be good enough to at least get to extra time, but they appear to be lacking in composure and they don't look anything like a team that has a chance to draw Real Madrid on the road.
Los Merengues have kept up the pressure, creating chance after chance. Karim Benzema sent a dangerous cross into the box in the 8th minute, but the ball was deflected out for a corner kick that created nothing. The 9th minute saw Pepe get a yellow card for hauling down Yoann Gourcuff, but Lyon were unable to capitalize. The 10th minute saw Ronaldo squander a counter-attack on which him and Benzema probably should have at least challenged the goal, and the two looked dangerous again a minute later when Benzema sent a ball into the box that was gobbled up by Hugo Lloris, who rushed out to deny Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo is looking sharp of the opening minutes for Real Madrid, despite suspicions that he might miss the match due to injury just days ago. In the opening two minutes, Ronaldo managed to play Benzema into a dangerous position with a creative backheel and win a free kick from Lyon central defender Cris.
Real created a good early chance (or more like flurry of chances) in the fourth minute, when Hugo Lloris stepped up to clear a through ball sent into Mesut Özil, then save a shot from Marcelo. On the ensuing corner after the save, Sami Khedira beat Lloris to a ball in the air, but his header rattled off the post.
It's somehow still 0-0 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, but Lyon aren't looking good at all. Real Madrid should probably already have a goal in the bag, and the visitors should feel very fortunate. Regardless of whether or not Real Madrid score once, Lyon need a goal, so defending and hoping for the best is going to do them no good in this match.
Through three-quarters of José Mourinho's first season at the Santiago Bernabeu, it's been impossible to tell whether the club has progressed from the heights of Manuel Pellegrini's stewardship. The only point of clear improvement has been the Copa Del Rey, though the weight given to that competition renders it a footnote. Barça is still first in league, and with Los Merengues having lost 5-0 at the Nou Camp in November, Real Madrid appears to have made little meaningful progress.
On Wednesday, Mourinho has an opportunity to provide a clear example of his positive influence, and for a club that's won nine European titles, it's apropos the first sign of progress could come in UEFA Champions League. While another unjustifiably lopsided loss to Barcelona in league would make if difficult for to save face, The Special One will be able to claim a victory (if only moral) where he to lead Los Blancos past the club that eliminated them at the same stage last season.
But Real Madrid's troubles in Champions League extend far beyond last year and Olympique Lyonnais. In each of the last six tournaments, Real Madrid has made it out of group stage, and in each of the last six tournaments, Real Madrid has been eliminated in the Round of 16, having failed to make a quarterfinal appearance since eliminating Bayern Munich in 2003-04. In that time they've been shown out by Juventus, Arsenal, Bayern, Roma and Liverpool, though last year's loss to Lyon cast the streak in a new, more depressing context. OL had been dealing with their own Round of 16 bugaboo, losing in three consecutive tournaments before being drawn against Madrid. That Lyon exercised their demons at Madrid's expense all but sealed Pellegrini's fate.
Even though Madrid got a better result at Stade Gerland this year - getting a 1-1 where they lost 1-0 last tournament - there is still this eerie feeling of opportunism surrounding Lyon, the same opportunism that led to Miralem Pjanic's late winner that the Bernabeu last season. This season that spirit could be seen in Bafetimbi Gomis's response to Karim Benzema's first leg goal, quickly quelling the idea that Mourinho's presence had moved Madrid beyond being troubled anybody but Barcelona. As a result, the match moves back to the Bernabeu tied at one.
While that puts Lyon worse off than they were for last year's return leg, there are a number of reasons to be encouraged. First, the team is largely unchanged from the squad that advanced to last year's semifinals. Second, those changes that have been made can be seen as positives, with only the expendable Jean Makoun leaving the club. Third, Lisandro López is fit again, having scored four goals in Lyon's last two matches.
Real Madrid's main scoring threat, a young Portuguese named Cristiano Ronaldo, is also returning to health, though he hasn't seen time on the pitch like López. The Merengues attacker has been sidelined since March 6 with an ankle injury but is expected to be available for Mourinho from the outset. Still, in addition to being healthy, it would help if Ronaldo were able to carry over some of his league form into Wednesday's match. While he has been a near goal-per-game scorer throughout his La Liga career with Real Madrid, Ronaldo's mustered only one goal in these last three meetings with Lyon.
Regardless, Ronaldo will be the focus of Lyon's preparations, with right back Anthony Reveillere sure to get help from Jeremy Toulalan coming from the middle, Jimmy Briand tracking back from the wing. Unlikely last year, though - when Lyon carried a lead into Madrid - Claude Puel can't merely focus on limiting his hosts. Not only did it not work a year ago (Ronaldo scoring early), but this year, it will see OL eliminated. Thanks to Benzema's goal at Stade Gerland, Lyon must score on Wednesday.
Lyon will be missing a number of key players. Michel Bastos is suspended while Cris will be missing from central defense. Yoann Gourcuff is a likely miss in attack, while Aly Cissohko looks set to recover from a thigh problem and start at left back. The players likely to benefit from the absences: Briand (at right wing), Pjanic (attacking midfield), and Pape Diakathé (in defense).
Real Madrid is relatively healthy. The big miss is Gonzalo Higuain, though he's been out for a while. Kaká is also a miss, but he has not been a factor this season. Pedro Leon and Fernando Gago will also miss the match.
Real Madrid, Starting XI: Casillas / Ramos, Carvalho, Pepe, Marcelo / Khedira, Alonso / Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo / Adebayor; Bench: Duzek, Albiol, Arbeloa, Diarra, Granero, Canales, Benzema
Lyon, Starting XI: Lloris / Revelliere, Diakathé, Lovren, Cissohko / Toulalan, Kallstrom / Briand, Pjanic, Lopez / Gomis; Subs: Vercoutre, Gassama, Kolodziejcak, Gonalons, Grenier, Delgado, Pied
I can't doubt José Mourinho's ability to get a 0-0, particularly when it puts hit team through. Real Madrid 0, Lyon 0.
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