By Andy Hall at the Anoeta
Olympique Lyonnais took full advantage of an early Gabriel Schurrer own goal to win their first European game in Spain and take the intiative in their first knockout round first-leg tie against Real Sociedad de Fútbol in San Sebastián.
The visitors broke the deadlock after 18 minutes and could have increased their lead were it not for an excellent performance from home goalkeeper Sander Westerveld. Real almost snatched a draw at the death when Valeri Karpin's free-kick hit the crossbar.
Real were boosted before the game by the news that influential midfield player Karpin had recovered from a thigh muscle sprain and could start. Coach Raynald Denoueix kept faith with forward Darko Kovacevic, despite his return of just five goals in 23 league appearances. Lyon welcomed back Juninho Pernambucano from injury, though Brazilian forward Giovane Elber was only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Lyon looked nervous for the opening minutes, preferring to play long balls that posed no problems for the Spanish side's defence. Real enjoyed the better of the first exchanges, Igor Gabilondo attempting to chip Grégory Coupet from 35 metres before Xabi Alonso picked up a loose ball to test the Lyon goalkeeper with a low drive on six minutes.
Own goal drama
It looked like Lyon's miserable record in Spain – they had lost on all four previous visits - would continue until the dangerous Florent Malouda created the opening goal after 15 minutes. The Guyana-born winger had already jinked past Aitor López three times in the opening exchanges before he did so again, making room to centre a teasing cross into the danger area. Schurrer stuck out his foot and could do nothing as his deflected block flew inside Westerveld's near post.
The Basque side looked to hit back immediately and Nihat Kahveci forced Coupet into an excellent diving stop with a fiercely struck drive. But the rest of Real's forays forward ended in disappointment, either with wasteful final balls that failed to find the willing Kovacevic or with weak shots from distance by Nihat, Xabi Alonso and Gabilondo.
Lyon had gained in confidence and as France forward Sidney Govou came into the game, a second goal looked on the cards. First, he beat two defenders for pace and cut the ball back to Péguy Luyindula, whose shot was blocked by a desperate lunge from Bjørn Tore Kvarme. Then he saw a decent shot deflected wide when he found space in the box on the right.
Westerveld was called into action again when Michael Essien pounced on a Luyindula knock-down to curl a shot which looked destined for the top corner, but the Dutchman palmed the ball round the post. His heroics continued in the second period, when he leapt and at full stretch tipped a Juninho free-kick over the top. Westerveld then did well to clasp a powerful Luyindula drive from the edge of the area.
Juninho goes close
Real still seemed groggy after the break and Lyon restricted their goal chances to a bare minimum. In the meantime, the visitors burst forward at every opportunity. Juninho twice came close to doubling the lead and Westerveld did well to keep out a late Vikash Dhorasoo drive with his legs, though could only watch when a last-minute Malouda effort came back off the post.
Karpin hits the bar
Real came closest to equalising when an 83rd-minute Karpin free-kick hit the crossbar and bounced back into play. It summed up a frustrating night for the hosts.