Real Madrid 1 – 1 Lyon (agg 1 – 2)
By Jamie Lillywhite
European giants Real Madrid crashed out of the Champions League at the first knockout round for the sixth year in succession after being held by Lyon.
The nine-times champions of Europe dominated the first half and should have been out of sight at the break.
Cristiano Ronaldo levelled the tie when he fired in left-footed on six minutes, but the home side failed to capitalise.
Lyon were a different side after the break, with several chances before Miralem Pjanic fizzed in a half-volley.
Real were in irresistible form from the outset and it seemed inconceivable that they would fail to find the net at least twice to overturn the tie and keep alive their hopes of playing in the final on their home ground in May.
They might have scored straight from the kick-off as Kaka ghosted through only to see his low shot kept out by Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris.
The wait for the opening goal to level up the tie was not a long one, however, as a spirited Ronaldo surged down the left flank and surprised Lloris with a first time left-footed shot that went through the keeper’s legs, his seventh goal in six Champions League matches this season.
Wave after wave of Real attacks followed, but the patient build-up and elegant passing patterns could not create a second goal.
Gonzalo Higuain might have had a hat-trick, heading narrowly over, superbly denied by an outstretched Lloris left-hand low to his left – and the most clear-cut of all – hitting the post having rounded the keeper.
Lyon made two changes at the break and showed far more attacking intent, with Sidney Govou firing wildly over when well placed inside the area and Lisandro Lopez testing Iker Casillas with a fierce, swerving shot from distance.
With Real struggling to impose themselves, the visitors went close again and were unfortunate that Pjanic’s teasing free-kick was closest to centre-half Cris, who failed to make proper contact inside the six-yard box when any significant touch would surely have found the target.
But Pjanic was the finisher as a clinical break saw him in space inside the area and he made no mistake with a firm shot from 12 yards.
Lisandro Lopez missed a golden opportunity to make it 2-1 on the night when he dragged horribly wide after Lyon had three on one on the break, but it did not prevent his side from reaching their fourth Champions League quarter-final, their first since 2006.