Olympique Lyonnais coach Gérard Houllier was left with plenty to think about after seeing some of his fringe players impress in the 1-1 draw with FC Steaua Bucuresti on Wednesday.
With one eye on Sunday's Ligue 1 meeting with Paris Saint-Germain FC, Houllier rested several first-team regulars in the knowledge that his side had already secured first place in UEFA Champions League Group E. Perhaps as a result, Lyon looked incoherent early on and were punished by Nicolae Dica's splendid second-minute goal. But ten minutes later Alou Diarra, one of several players in the home side looking to make a point to the coach, levelled the contest with a firm header from Kim Källström's corner.
'A joyful moment'
Diarra, 25, has needed to show plenty of patience since joining from RC Lens in the summer, and was delighted to mark one of his rare starts with his first goal in European competition. "When the ball hit the net it was a joyful moment," the French international midfielder told uefa.com. "It was a reward for the hard work I've been putting in and moreover it was important for the team because we hadn't started very well."
Lyon, and Diarra in particular, grew in confidence after that but the French champions never totally stamped their authority on the game. They might even have lost had Steaua, who will resume their European campaign in the UEFA Cup in February, taken one of several second-half chances. "You have to congratulate Steaua for their performance," Diarra said. "They came here with a good spirit and pushed us very hard. Of course we're a little disappointed not to have won but a draw isn't a disaster and going through the whole group phase unbeaten bodes well for the remainder of the competition."
Energy and invention
Another Lyon player who staked his claim for more regular football is Hatem Ben Arfa, who was full of energy and invention on the left flank in the absence of the suspended Florent Malouda. The 19-year-old youth-team graduate came close to capping his performance with a winning goal and felt frustrated to have taken a solitary point, telling uefa.com: "We did everything possible to win but couldn't get the second goal. I had a couple of shots with my right foot and I was disappointed not to score. But it was fantastic to start the game. Now it's up to me to keep my head down, keep working hard in training, and hopefully I'll get more chances."
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