Lyon earns suprise win over Juventus
Lyon produced a spirited display to take a surprise lead after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Juventus.
Lucas Tousart scored the only goal in the first half as the hosts claimed their first victory over the Italian giants.
Juve started confidently but failed to create any clear chances before Tousart converted Houssem Aouar’s cross from close range to hand the Ligue 1 side the lead.
The visitors continued to have more possession but they struggled to penetrate the resolute Lyon defence, failing to register a single shot on target.
With the clock ticking down, Juve ramped up the pressure, but Paulo Dybala’s late strike was ruled out for offside.
The second leg will take place at Allianz Stadium on 17 March (20:00 GMT).
Juventus come unstuck in pursuit of big prize
Juventus have won the last eight Serie A titles, and they were one of the pre-tournament favourites to win the biggest prize in European club football, but they will have to come from behind to progress in this season’s competition.
The visitors had over 60% possession but they were sluggish going forward, as an attack including Cristiano Ronaldo, Dybala and Juan Cuadrado failed to test Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.
Ronaldo carried their greatest threat and two of his lofted crosses caused brief moments of panic in the Lyon ranks, but he too was below par as he fired wide on four occasions from good positions.
There were also problems at the back, despite stellar summer signing Matthijs de Ligt returning to the defence, as Lyon enjoyed success from out wide.
Karl Toko Ekambi fired a warning shot when he drifted to the near post to head a corner against the crossbar, before the impressive Aouar picked out Tousart to hit the winner with a well-weighted square pass.
The goal came while De Ligt was off the field receiving attention for a cut on the head, but Juve continued to struggle at set pieces as they continue to adapt to their new zonal marking system, something experienced defender Leonardo Bonucci has said is “complicated”.
Juventus have made it past the Champions League last 16 in four of the past five seasons, but they have not won the title since 1996 and manager Maurizo Sarri has previously said he “feels the weight of responsibility much more in Italy”.
Sarri’s side will have home advantage in the second leg but an away goal for Lyon would intensify that pressure on the former Chelsea boss and his superstars.
The ‘plan’ paid off
Lyon manager Rudi Garcia tempted fate before the game, saying his side did not have an “anti-Ronaldo plan” – and judging by his performance, Garcia was perhaps vindicated in his decision not to pay special attention to the Portuguese forward.
Instead, they defended as a unit as they kept out one of the most feared attacks in Europe by remaining in their shape and making very few individual errors.
As Juve poured forward in search of the equaliser late on, centre-back Jason Denayer was equal to the challenge, as he first outmuscled Ronaldo to force him to mis-control the ball in the box, before stepping up just in time to play Dybala offside.
At the other end, Lyon were without captain and talisman Memphis Depay after the forward ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) before the end of last year, but Aouar pulled the strings from midfield.
The number eight was the only change from the league victory over Metz but his balance and poise on the ball led to several chances, including the crucial assist for Tousart’s winner.
Lyon have not progressed beyond the Champions League last 16 since 2010, but Garcia’s pre-match plea of wanting “to upset the odds” is in touching distance.
Man of the match – Houssem Aouar (Lyon)
‘It is not enough to play one half’ – what they said
Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri said: “In the first half the ball was circulating too slowly. The second half was much better but in the Champions League it’s not enough to play one half.
“I don’t know why I didn’t manage to let my players understand that the ball must circulate much quicker. It all starts from there. Yesterday in training it was circulating much better.”
Lyon manager Rudi Garcia: “It was a game of two halves. The first half was very beautiful. Not only did we defend very well, we respected the gameplan to the letter. In the second half we didn’t exist with the ball and suffered.
“They brought on the fourth attacker and then we had to roll our sleeves up and all defend together. We didn’t concede and that’s very important when you play the first leg at home. My only regret is that we didn’t get a second when we were on top in the first half.”
Fortress Lyon – the stats
- Lyon have beaten Juventus in European competition for the very first time, losing three of their previous four encounters (D1).
- Lyon have won their first Champions League knockout game since February 2012 (1-0 v Apoel Nicosia).
- Lyon are unbeaten at home in the Champions League in nine consecutive games (W2 D7), their longest run since December 2006 (18 games – W12 D6).
- Juventus have lost against French opposition in the Champions League for the first time since November 2009 – 2-0 against Bordeaux in the group stage.
- Juventus have progressed from five of their 11 Champions League knockout ties when losing the first leg, including the most recent one against Atletico Madrid in the last 16 last season.
- Juventus have failed to have a shot on target in a Champions League match for the first time since October 2014 – against Atletico.
- Juventus have conceded in seven consecutive away games in all competitions, their longest such run without a clean sheet in a single season since May 2010 (18 games).
- Houssem Aouar has been directly involved in four goals in his five appearances for Lyon in the Champions League this season (one goal, four assists).
- Shots on Target