Olympique Lyonnais started their UEFA Champions League campaign in superb fashion as an impressive first-half display earned a 3-0 Group F success against Real Madrid CF.
Quarter-finalists for the last two years, Lyon have high hopes of going even further this season, and on the basis of this performance they have every reason to feel optimistic. Gérard Houllier's team showed great skill and determination, sealing the victory with three goals in a devastating first 45 minutes. John Carew opened the scoring before strikes from Juninho Pernambucano and Sylvain Wiltord took the game away from Madrid, who also suffered a 3-0 reverse at Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 1 last term.
Lyon centre-half Cris passed a late fitness test to take his place alongside Claudio Caçapa at the back, while Tiago was preferred to Benoît Pedretti in midfield. Carew began as a lone forward, flanked by Wiltord and Florent Malouda. The visitors also received a fitness boost, with David Beckham recovering from a thigh problem. Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo were missing through injury and suspension respectively, so Julio César Baptista stepped into the playmaker role behind strikers Raúl González and Robinho.
The match kicked off at a frantic pace and Lyon were quickly on the attack, Carew running at the Madrid defence before seeing his shot blocked by Iván Helguera. The Spanish side were soon in the game, however, and twice threatened from free-kicks in the opening eight minutes. While the first effort from Beckham grazed Grégory Coupet's right-hand post, Roberto Carlos's strike then flashed slightly wider of the same upright.
As Madrid controlled possession, Lyon seemed content to defend in numbers and pick their moment to counterattack. Roberto Carlos saw another long-range attempt well saved by Coupet, but when the breakthrough came, it was at the other end. Set-piece specialist Juninho curled a wicked free-kick towards goal and Carew's glancing header was enough to beat Iker Casillas, who could only push the ball into the roof of the net.
Madrid almost silenced the stadium moments later as Baptista deflected a Roberto Carlos shot on to the post, then Raúl headed the rebound straight at Coupet. Before the visitors had time for regret, they were two down. Again Juninho did the damage, this time the Brazilian firing a free-kick directly into Casillas's bottom right-hand corner on 26 minutes.
Lyon were rampant and scored a third five minutes later, as Wiltord exchanged passes with Anthony Réveillère on the right before volleying emphatically past Casillas. The French champions should have extended their lead further but Juninho, after being fouled in the area by Míchel Salgado, saw his spot-kick blocked by Casillas. Madrid came close to pulling a goal back before half-time through Robinho, but Coupet produced an exceptional stop to tip the Brazilian's low shot wide.
Coupet called upon
Madrid started the second period with a more offensive formation, as Baptista moved into attack and Roberto Carlos and Salgado switched to wing-backs. Coupet was soon in the thick of the action, catching Baptista's volley, then parrying Roberto Carlos's stinging drive. The France custodian saved his team again on the hour, blocking Raúl's attempt after the striker had been played through by Robinho.
Coupet's assurance seemed to filter through to his team-mates and, after impressive approach work, Juninho burst into the right side of the Madrid box and drew a fine save from Casillas with a low shot. Madrid continued to press, but Cris and Caçapa were in determined mood and Lyon ultimately held firm without any real alarm.