Jean-Alain Boumsong believes the character displayed by Olympique Lyonnais was the key factor in their "historic" UEFA Champions League quarter-final triumph over FC Girondins de Bordeaux on Wednesday.
Les Gones will enter uncharted territory when they take on FC Bayern München in the semi-finals having finally prevailed in a last-eight tie. The 3-2 aggregate success was far from straightforward, however, with Bordeaux pushing their domestic rivals extremely hard in an intense, nerve-jangling second leg.
Marouane Chamakh's goal on the stroke of half-time may have secured victory on the night for the French titleholders but OL's stout defending in the second period ultimately saw Claude Puel's men through.
Boumsong and his centre-back partner Cris were particularly effective, repelling attack after attack, and the Frenchman expressed his relief at coming through the examination. "It was very hard," Boumsong told UEFA.com. "We needed to show all of our character.
"Conceding just before half-time was a setback but we refused to let the doubt creep in. We knew there was a chance it could happen and I feel our experience in the Champions League helped us a lot. We dug deep and managed to secure this result which is historic for the club."
Lyon's satisfaction was all the greater for the fact the seven-time champions had fallen at this stage in three of the last six seasons. Midfielder Kim Källström was keen to dedicate the victory to the fans who had seen their side come up agonisingly short against FC Porto, PSV Eindhoven and AC Milan.
"It's a wonderful moment for the club and for the supporters who have suffered through the years," the Swedish international explained. "We celebrated with them a bit at the end because they deserve this moment. We've had some wonderful teams at Lyon but none of them have managed to make a semi-final. We have done it thanks to our spirit and determination. Now we want to keep on going."
If Källström conceded "the reality is yet to sink in", some of his less experienced team-mates were also pinching themselves. Maxime Gonalons only broke into the senior squad last summer, yet the 21-year-old midfielder again showed remarkable skill and composure against Les Girondins, following on from his accomplished performances against Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF earlier in the competition.
Gonalons was understandably thrilled, saying: "This season has just been amazing for me. It's hard to believe we're in the semi-finals but I think we deserve to be there. Qualifying here against Bordeaux is a great achievement."
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