Florent Malouda says Olympique Lyonnais showed "great physical and mental strength" in defeating FC Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 last night to qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with two matches to spare.
It was the French champions' 14th consecutive win in all competitions and their fourth straight success in Group E, but they did not have it all their own way in a fierce contest. Having triumphed 3-0 in Ukraine a fortnight ago, Lyon were expected by many to breeze to victory, and Karim Benzema's 14th-minute strike merely strengthened that belief. But Dynamo had other ideas, and might have claimed their first point had Artem Milevskiy's shot not skated narrowly wide of the far post late on.
'It wasn't easy'
Malouda sounded relieved to have taken maximum plunder as he praised the visitors for a spirited display. "I'm really happy because we're through to the next stage and we still haven't conceded a goal," the French international told uefa.com. "But it wasn't easy because Dynamo were determined to gain revenge and they fought really hard. Fortunately we scored early and then stayed solid at the back. We already knew Dynamo are a good team. They're very dangerous when they have the ball and tonight they showed they also know how to defend."
Lyon may not have been at their swashbuckling best but they did just enough to prevail, as against AS Nancy-Lorraine last Sunday. Malouda believes a congested fixture list could be taking its toll on the players, saying: "We've played a lot of matches and most of us are feeling exhausted right now. It's true that you recover more quickly when you are winning but we needed to show great physical and mental strength tonight. We've proved in the past that we have solidarity in this group and we needed it here."
While Lyon are sure of a place in the last 16, Malouda insists they have unfinished business in the group. "We haven't reached our first objective yet because our first objective is to finish top," the 26-year-old said. With Real Madrid CF three points behind, Lyon will seal first place if they avoid losing in the Spanish capital on Matchday 5. "Finishing first is important for us because we want to avoid the best teams and we want the second leg at home," continued Malouda. "Now we are through we can focus calmly on Ligue 1 and the next Champions League game in Madrid."
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