A magnificent second-half display by Olympique Lyonnais swept away GNK Dinamo Zagreb and carried Rémi Garde's team past AFC Ajax and into second position in UEFA Champions League Group D and a spot in the last 16.
Lyon went into the game needing a minor miracle. They trailed second-placed Ajax by three points – and seven goals in goal difference terms – but striker Bafétimbi Gomis was to play a starring role, scoring four in a 7-1 win made all the sweeter by Real Madrid CF's 3-0 victory over Ajax in Amsterdam. "
It's one of the happiest times I've ever had with OL, and the first time I've ever scored four times in a match," the 26-year-old French international told UEFA.com.
Approaching half-time, the tie was still goalless, despite Jerko Leko receiving a second yellow card after pulling down Gomis on the edge of the area in the 28th minute. Five minutes from the break, Dinamo's Mateo Kovačić put the Croatian champions one up – and Lyon's mission to turn around Ajax's substantial advantage in the group seemed impossible.
Gomis said Leko's dismissal was the turning point. "Before the red card, they weren't afraid to attack," he explained. "We lacked aggression up front. Unfortunately for them, the red card put us in a very favourable position so we weren't afraid at half-time."
Lyon cancelled out Dinamo's surprise opener through Gomis moments before the interval, and promptly stunned the Stadion Maksimir with three strikes within seven minutes of the restart. Maxime Gonalons began the onslaught two minutes in, then Gomis netted twice to complete the fastest ever UEFA Champions League hat-trick – three goals in seven minutes. Lisandro, Gomis again and Jimmy Briand clinched qualification for the rampant visitors with a quarter-hour left.
Belief was the key according to Gomis. "We thought we had a chance, albeit a small one. We had prepared well and last night we watched Olympique de Marseille's comeback [3-2 win at Borussia Dortmund] on TV."
A delighted Briand, who scored one and set up two, agreed. "Before the game we were the only ones who actually believed we could do it – the coach, the players, the president and the back-rooom team," the forward said. "We believed it could happen, we came here, and it did happen. At half-time we saw it was 2-0 to Madrid and we said we have to give this everything. After we scored quickly in the second half we thought, 'Well, we're going to do it.'"
Dinamo defender Luis Ibáñez unsurprisingly struggled to take any positives from the experience. "We apologise to our fans," he said. "The red card caused us problems and the start of the second half destroyed us.
It has been a great education for us though, going forward, and for next season."
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