A gritty, rearguard performance from ten-man AFC Ajax earned them a valuable UEFA Champions League Group D victory against Olympique Lyonnais in the Gerland stadium.
Steven Pienaar and Rafael van der Vaart scored the goals for a well-organised but unattractive Ajax side, who had captain Cristian Chivu sent off and five other players booked as they scrapped for the three points which lifted them to second in the group.
Rocked by his side's disappointing home draw with Rosenborg BK last week, Ajax coach Ronald Koeman made six changes to his starting lineup and his decision seemed vindicated when the visitors began brightly. Just three minutes had elapsed when Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored twice when these sides met in Amsterdam last month, drew a fantastic save from Lyon goalkeeper Grégory Coupet.
Four minutes later, the outstanding Nigel De Jong's cultured ball down the Ajax left led to the opening goal. Ibrahimovic, who faded as the game progressed, fed the ball back inside and Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' squared a pass to Pienaar. The South African then slotted a close-range shot underneath the helpless Coupet.
Seemingly content with a single goal, Ajax sat back and half an hour of bustling, direct football failed to produce a shot on goal at either end. Lyon began to turn the screw ten minutes before the break and, after Juninho tested Joey Didulica with a 25-metre free-kick, the French team appeared to have levelled the scores. Sonny Anderson's downward header looked to have crossed the line before Chivu, who was highly impressive until his 62nd-minute dismissal for upending Tony Vairelles, hacked the ball clear. However no goal was awarded.
Didulica made an acrobatic save to deny Edmílson on the stroke of half-time, changing direction to stop a 40-metre piledriver which took a wicked deflection off Mido. But the second half was all Lyon. Eric Carrière tried his luck from 22 metres but missed the target and Vikash Dhorasoo's 55th-shot was parried by the impressive Didulica.
After Chivu received his marching orders, Ajax were largely camped in their own penalty area, but Didulica consistently came to the visitors' rescue, kicking away Carrière's close-range effort after great work out wide from the industrious Sidney Govou and beating Anderson to a loose ball as the French side heaved forward.
Van der Vaart victorious
Govou lashed a volley into the side-netting and Vairelles headed the ball over from Juninho's hanging free-kick but as the game slipped into added time Ajax broke away and, after Maxwell nicked the ball off the toes of Patrick Müller, he squared a pass for the unmarked Van der Vaart to slide Ajax's second past Coupet.