Karim Benzema described his return to Olympique Lyonnais as "perfect" after coming off the bench and scoring a crucial goal to hand Real Madrid CF the initiative in their last-16 tie.
After more than five and a half hours of trying, Madrid finally registered their first-ever goal at Stade de Gerland on Tuesday. It was somewhat ironic though that the man who ended the drought grew up just five kilometres away from the ground and was once a local hero.
The nine-time European champions had been beaten in each of their last three visits, including a 1-0 loss at the same stage last season, and a similar scenario looked plausible during a tense first half that was shaded by the energetic hosts.
Benzema had other ideas, however, breaking the deadlock in the 65th minute within seconds of replacing Emmanuel Adebayor. Although the French side fought back and equalised through Bafétimbi Gomis, the Madrid No9 believes his away goal has given José Mourinho's team the edge.
"I'm really pleased because it was vital for us to avoid defeat here and to score if possible," the 23-year-old told UEFA.com. "Getting the away goal could prove very important. It was a good game against a strong Lyon side, but I'm confident we'll go through at home."
It was an emotional evening for Benzema, who joined OL as a boy and scored 43 Ligue 1 goals for them after breaking through as a precocious 17-year-old. The French international left in 2009 but the Lyon fans have clearly not forgotten him, affording their former star a rousing reception when he entered the fray in the second half.
Benzema was keen to thank the supporters, saying: "It's the second time I've come back and it's the second time I've been applauded. I'm very happy and I want to say 'thank you' again."
Benzema may have silenced the crowd by scoring an excellent goal with virtually his first touch, yet the powerful forward also showed respect by refusing to celebrate the strike. He said: "Why would I celebrate scoring against Lyon? I grew up here and all my family and friends are still here. It's thanks to Lyon that I play for Madrid today."
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