By Pete Sanderson in Lyon
French champions Olympique Lyonnais fired a warning to their Group A rivals FC Bayern München and Celtic FC as they swept to an impressive 1-0 victory against RSC Anderlecht at the Gerland stadium. A 26th-minute penalty from Juninho Pernambucano separated the sides in an enthralling encounter dominated by their Brazilian sensation.
Anderlecht had the better of the opening exchanges and were thwarted with just three minutes gone when Lyon goalkeeper Grégory Coupet made a vital interception from Christian Wilhelmsson's cross with Korean Ki-Hyeon Seol waiting to pounce.
The French champions, who have made a sluggish start to their domestic campaign, struggled to find their rhythm but came close to breaking the deadlock in the fifth minute. Brazilian Giovane Elber, his pace and probing runs a constant threat to the visitors' rearguard, got beyond Hannu Tihinen but lost control of the ball at the vital moment.
Juninho was at the heart of all of Lyon's best moves and a dazzling piece of skill had the home fans on their feet after eleven minutes. The Brazilian threatened to get on the scoresheet minutes later but his ambitious effort was plucked out of the night sky by Anderlecht goalkeeper Daniel Zitka.
The lively Lyon fans finally had something to cheer in the 26th minute. Sidney Govou lost his marker and burst into the area forcing Zitka into a rash challenge and leaving Portuguese referee Paolo Gomes Costa little choice but to point to the spot. Fans' favourite Juninho stepped up and drilled his penalty into the top left-hand corner, sending the Czech goalkeeper the wrong way.
Lyon dominated the rest of the half and both Michael Essien and Elber came close to doubling their lead. With five minutes remaining before the interval, Juninho came within centimetres of Lyon's second but his curling free-kick whistled past Zitka's upright. Anderlecht, who relied heavily on winger Wilhelmsson to revive their fortunes, had a great chance to level on 41 minutes but Albanian Besnik Hasi's shot was cleared.
Pulling the strings
The energetic Juninho continued to pull the strings as Lyon went in search of a second goal in the opening ten minutes of the second half. First he forced Zitka into a spectacular save from a fizzing free-kick from fully 30 metres before delivering a pin-point corner into the path of Elber which somehow evaded the striker and drifted to safety.
Another long-range effort from the Brazilian had Zitka scampering for the bottom corner in the 56th minute before Juninho's clever dummy set up compatriot Edmilson, but his thunderous drive grazed the crossbar. It was no surprise that Juninho, a galvanising force throughout, left the field to a standing ovation midway through the second half - replaced by French international Eric Carrière.
In the midfield player's absence, Lyon continued to press for that elusive second and Zitka did just enough to distract substitute Lamine Traore after a brilliantly weighted through-ball from Essien.
However, the more chances Lyon created the more vulnerable they looked at the back. Coach Paul Le Guen had his goalkeeper to thank in the 80th minute after he somehow got a fingertip to Pär Zetterberg's well-struck effort from the edge of the area, but Lyon held on to earn a well-deserved victory.