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Goalless affair at the Gerland

Published: Thursday 30 March 2006, 0.55CET
Olympique Lyonnais 0-0 AC Milan
The French champions were held in check at home but kept alive their hopes of reaching a first semi-final.
by Matthew Spiro
from Stade Gerland
Published: Thursday 30 March 2006, 0.55CET

Goalless affair at the Gerland

Olympique Lyonnais 0-0 AC Milan
The French champions were held in check at home but kept alive their hopes of reaching a first semi-final.

Olympique Lyonnais survived a torrid first half against AC Milan to keep alive their hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time. A series of fine saves from Grégory Coupet kept last season's finalists at bay, ensuring that an intruiging quarter-final first leg finished goalless - the first such result involving Lyon in the competition.

Last-eight eliminations
FC Porto and PSV Eindhoven ended Lyon's hopes at this stage in the previous two seasons, and the home fans will have feared a similar scenario as Milan dominated early on, Andriy Shevchenko denied by Coupet on three occasions. Inspired by their outstanding custodian, Lyon improved and after enjoying the better of a pulsating second period, will travel to Milan in six days with their chances intact and boosted by the return of Juninho Pernambucano.

Uncertain opening
The game had been billed as the biggest in Lyon's history and the French club, aiming for a last-four debut, began nervously. Benoît Pedretti had been drafted into midfield in place of the suspended Juninho but the Brazilian's poise and presence were sorely missed in a frantic opening. Mahamadou Diarra's misplaced pass allowed Gennaro Gattuso to slide Shevchenko clear on seven minutes, but Coupet blocked the Ukrainian's low shot with his legs. Milan's midfield diamond was posing the home side difficulties and with Serginho frequently advancing from left-back, the inexperienced François Clerc looked particularly uncomfortable.

One-way traffic
Lyon presented Milan with another opportunity when Sylvain Wiltord's poor lay-off found Kaká who surged forward before shooting narrowly wide. The one-way traffic continued and Shevchenko seemed certain to break the deadlock on 13 minutes but, after the home team had failed to clear Serginho's cross, the tournament's top scorer was again denied by Coupet's outstretched leg. Unbeaten at home in the UEFA Champions League for over three years, Lyon were a shadow of their usual selves although with Jaap Stam and Cafu absent and Paolo Maldini only fit for the bench, Lyon eventually started to threaten a Milan back line that had Alessandro Costacurta, 40 next month, operating at right-back.

Lyon lift
Florent Malouda beat Costacurta for pace on 24 minutes but overhit his cross, then moments later drew a foul from the veteran. John Carew flicked on Pedretti's resulting free-kick, forcing Dida to claw acrobatically off his line. The chance brought the stadium to life and gave Lyon renewed belief, but the Italian side maintained a strangehold on proceedings and created another glorious opening on the stroke of half-time, Shevchenko pouncing on some ponderous defending to head the ball past Cris but see his rising shot parried by the impeccable Coupet.

Home surge
Lyon, who had only failed to score in two matches this season, began the second half in positive fashion. Malouda and Wiltord were offering more support to Carew, and the hosts enjoyed their first period of sustained pressure. Malouda fired over from long range before Costacurta's slip caused panic in the Milan rearguard as Carew and then Tiago had efforts blocked. Costacurta soon made way for Maldini, while Filippo Inzaghi replaced an ineffective Alberto Gilardino.

Strong finish
There was suddenly an extra spring in the step of the Lyon players. Tiago jinked past Andrea Pirlo only to scuff his low shot, then substitute Fred struck an equally tame attempt straight at Dida. The Brazilian produced a fingertip save to keep out Tiago, but the Portuguese midfielder's night ended in disppointment as he picked up a caution that rules him out of the return.

Last updated: 30/03/06 10.04CET

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http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=0/matches/round=2203/match=1105607/postmatch/report/index.html#goalless+affair+gerland

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