By Pete Sanderson in Lyon
Olympique Lyonnais coach Paul Le Guen issued a warning to any team hoping to get the hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy after watching his French champions clear the latest hurdle in their quest for European glory.
Lyon swept aside the challenge of Real Sociedad de Fútbol thanks to another crucial strike from influential midfield player Juninho Pernambucano, forcing Le Guen to discard his usual cautious optimism for a much more positive approach. "We're in it to win it now," said Le Guen. "Our objective was to get to the quarter-finals and we have done that – now the gloves are off and we will do our best to win the whole thing."
Having already finished top of a section containing FC Bayern München, Celtic FC and RSC Anderlecht in the group stage, the French coach had warned the Lyon supporters not too expect too much from his young team.
But, with this latest victory and another clean sheet under their belt on a night when two of the biggest clubs in the Champions League, Manchester United FC and Juventus FC, fell by the wayside, Le Guen is now convinced his Lyon side can now go all the way.
"Other sides may have bigger and more glamorous squads," the Lyon coach continued. "But we have a great team spirit, a great set of players and are incredibly hard to beat on our home ground. Whoever we draw, we are likely to be the underdogs in the quarter-final but we are taking this tournament very seriously now and
I know we can beat anyone on our day."
With a one-goal advantage going into the second leg, Lyon only found their rhythm in the second half. And Le Guen admitted their sluggish display in the opening 45 minutes was largely down to nerves. "Of course we struggled to get going but it is normal when you are playing a side of this calibre - especially one who normally score so many goals away from home," he said. "There was a lot of pressure out there but we handled it well in the end and got the goal which took the pressure off."
Juninho was equally as delighted, saying he enjoyed his goal immensely and was already dreaming of whom they may draw in the next round. "It was a great day for me, for my team-mates and for Lyon," he exclusively told uefa.com. "I can't stop thinking of who we may get. I would love Real Madrid [CF] or Arsenal [FC] - I think we can give them all a good game at the Stade Gerland. This is a historic day for everyone at Lyon and is wonderful for French football."
For all their hard work and, at times, delightfully flowing football, Real struggled to break down a resolute Lyon defence and coach Raynald Denoueix was gracious in defeat. "We did not play badly," he said. "We managed to stop them playing for the first 60 minutes by crowding the midfield but we needed to control the game more.
The goal killed us off because by that point we had used most of our energy trying to stop Lyon play."
Real bow out of the competition with memories of some neat football, but their inability to capitalise on their possession when the French champions looked vulnerable ultimately cost them their place in among the élite.
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