When Internazionale FC fell behind to an early AC Chievo Verona goal at the San Siro four days' ago, Christian Vieri scored twice to maintain the club's perfect start to the Serie A season. With the Italian international sidelined for the UEFA Champions League meeting with Olympique Lyonnais, Inter coach Héctor Cúper said his side "took two or three steps backwards" as the French champions ran out 2-1 winners at the same venue.
The result also ended one of the proudest records in European football as it was Inter's first home loss in 34 matches in Europe's most prestigious club competition dating back to their debut in September 1963. Inter previously won 25 and drawn eight of their 33 matches in the elite competition - the second best unbeaten home sequence of all time, ten behind FC Bayern München's record of 43 games between 1969 and 1991.
Lyon's success, a tribute to the tactical nous of coach Paul Le Guen and the brilliance of a midfield orchestrated by Eric Carriére, moves them two points clear at the top of Group D ahead of Inter and AFC Ajax who are separated only by the Italian side's superior head-to-head record following a 1-0 victory against the Dutch champions last week.
Lyon may have made a stuttering start to their Le Championnat defence but they built on last week's 5-0 thrashing of Rosenborg BK to mastermind Inter's first home defeat in the first group stage of this competition. The Nerazzurri won all three games as hosts in their last appearance in the Champions League in 1998/99, yet never looked like adding to that impressive record as Lyon outplayed them for the first hour in Milan.
'Look to the future'
"Everything worked as I planned," said Le Guen. "We were better physically and the team kept their shape and fought all match. It is a really important win which will boost morale, for domestic football too, and we can look to the future with confidence." Le Guen, though, refused to get carried away with tonight's display, with the return fixture set for 22 October. "Inter are always a dangerous team and we have to remember this, especially as we play them next."
Opportunism and brilliance
A willing runner and fine distributor of the ball, French international Carriére was the pivot on which Lyon's most creative play was built. The 29-year-old created Sidney Govou's 21st-minute opener with a clipped pass over the Inter defence, and also played in Sonny Anderson for a second goal on the hour, although the Brazilian's strike owed much more to his opportunism and brilliance. "I decided to shoot as soon as I saw that my path to goal was blocked," the Lyon captain said. "Obviously it went well."
Inter rarely threatened, Lyon goalkeeper Gregory Coupét having little to do bar pick the ball out of the net after Fabio Cannavaro pipped him to a delicious Alvaro Recoba corner with 17 minutes remaining. The goal should have provided the cue for Inter to drive forward but the team in red defended stoutly. "It's a sin," said Cúper of his side's display. "Lyon are good technically but we did everything wrong."
The Argentinian cut an animated figure throughout but his players failed to respond to his actions. "We didn't show anything," Cúper continued. "It was almost as if we weren't on the pitch - the team was confused. I was desperately screaming at them to play the ball on the floor but we didn't manage to. A team must always keep its organisation and today we didn't."
All is not lost
All is not lost though, Cúper concluding by saying that his team will do his utmost to claim the remaining nine points on offer. It will take a significant improvement even to collect the first three of those at the Gerland stadium.
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