By Matthew Spiro at the Stade Gerland
Two second-half goals from Ruud van Nistelrooij helped Manchester United FC come from two goals behind to secure a 2-2 draw with Olympique Lyonnais at the Gerland stadium on Wednesday.
Inspired by the former Arsenal FC forward Sylvain Wiltord, the French champions led 2-0 at half-time, summer signing Cris and Pierre-Alain Frau the men on target. Sir Alex Ferguson's side are nothing but resilient, though, and they earned a first Group D point thanks to two Van Nistelrooij strikes.
Lyon handed a first start to Wiltord who partnered Frau in attack, while Brazilian international Cris made his Champions League debut alongside Claudio Caçapa in central defence. Juninho Permambucano lined up with Michael Essien in an attack-minded midfield that had Florent Malouda on the left and Sydney Govou on the right.
United, who were boosted by the return of John O'Shea at the back, reinforced their midfield by bringing in Eric Djemba-Djemba, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs occupied the flanks and Van Nistelrooij played in attack just ahead of Paul Scholes.
Lyon started at a frantic pace but with too many passes going astray it was the visitors who created the first opening on eleven minutes. Giggs set off on an amazing dribble before releasing Ronaldo on the right and his low centre flashed across the face of goal after Scholes had failed to connect at the near post. Six minutes later Roy Keane's swinging cross dissected the Lyon defence, only for Giggs to fire wide when well placed.
Just as it looked like becoming a long evening for the home side, Caçapa powered a header fractionally wide from Juninho's 19th-minute corner and brought the Stade Gerland crowd to life. Moments later Wiltord's intricate pass sent Malouda through on goal but his shot was well saved by the on-rushing Tim Howard. With Juninho figuring more prominently as the half wore on, Lyon continued to pose problems for the United defence and Wiltord stung Howard's hands with a low drive just before the half-hour.
Scholes then showed brilliant reactions to clear Frau's thunderous header off the line after another dangerous Juninho corner on 33 minutes. Seconds later Lyon took the lead. Juninho's low free-kick was intended as a cross but when Howard failed to gather the ball cleanly Cris was on hand to force the ball over the line.
Govou then sent an audacious lob narrowly wide of the far post from 35 metres as Lyon grew in confidence. The French team stunned United by doubling their lead a minute before the break. The effervescent Wiltord surged forward from midfield before slipping a perfect pass through for Frau who lifted his shot coolly over Howard.
Yet United came out with renewed urgency after the break and got themselves back in the game with a goal from Van Nistelrooij on 56 minutes. Ronaldo, who had switched to the left flank, after being well marked by Eric Abidal, crossed from the by-line and the Dutch international angled a deft header inside Grégory Coupet's far post.
Amazingly United drew level just five minutes later. Again Ronaldo was the architect, seeing his deflected pass squeeze through for Van Nistelrooij who slotted the ball past Coupet. Lyon appeared stunned but managed to regroup and Scholes made his second goalline clearance of the game from Caçapa's low shot on 69 minutes.
Lyon had a golden opportunity to retake the lead 12 minutes from time when Malouda escaped down the left only to see his pinpoint cross volleyed wide by substitute Nilmar with the goal gaping. It proved to be the final chance.