Olympique Lyonnais are on the verge of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League round of 16 for an eighth season running after goals from Jimmy Briand and Lisandro earned a comfortable victory against ten-man SL Benfica.
Briand set the ball rolling when he nodded in on 21 minutes, and after Nicolás Gaitán was dismissed moments before the break, Lisandro sealed the win with a second goal six minutes into the second period. The French club's third successive Group B triumph maintains their three-point lead over FC Schalke 04 and ensures they travel to Lisbon on 2 November with a six-point cushion over Jorge Jesus' men in third.
After a cagey opening, the visitors threatened first when Gaitán burst up the left and crossed for Alan Kardec, whose glancing header drifted wide on 19 minutes. It was only a half-chance yet that would prove the Portuguese titleholders' only glimpse of goal before Les Gones took charge.
Michel Bastos again provided OL's early inspiration, hitting Roberto's far post with a sizzling low shot, before setting up the opener just seconds later. Indeed, the woodwork was probably still shaking when the Brazilian raced onto Yoann Gourcuff's pass and clipped a clever cross behind the back-tracking defenders for Briand to stoop and nod in.
Last season's semi-finalists looked reassured by the goal, and with centre-backs Cris and Pape Diakhaté in commanding form, began playing with confidence and authority. Benfica's inability to make inroads was causing obvious frustration, which was made worse when Gaitán received a second yellow card for tripping Anthony Réveillère in the 43rd minute.
Claude Puel's charges went in for the kill at the start of the second period. Lisandro drew a save from Roberto and Bastos glanced the bar with another powerful strike from a tight angle before the second goal duly arrived on 51 minutes. Briand, buoyed by registering his first UEFA Champions League strike, was again influential, shooting against the inside of the post from 20 metres then retrieving the rebound and crossing for Lisandro. The Argentina striker's header was saved but he was first on the scene to turn Roberto's parry in right-footed.
It would have been worse for Benfica had Roberto not made superb stops from Bastos' stinging volley, Gourcuff's free-kick and Bastos again on the follow-up. Puel gave Gourcuff, Lisandro and Bastos well-earned rests in the closing stages as Lyon coasted to victory.
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