Olympique Lyonnais sealed their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League as they scored four goals in 16 minutes either side of half-time to claim a comeback victory at Olympiacos CFP.
Needing to win to keep alive their own hopes of escaping Group F, Haruna Babangida had given the home team the perfect start at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium with a goal inside the first three minutes to spark a spell of Olympiacos pressure. Lyon weathered the storm, however, and Juninho Pernambucano equalised four minutes before the interval with a trademark free-kick. John Carew added another before the break and by the time the Norwegian netted his second on 57 minutes, Lyon were coasting to a healthy victory.
Sidney Govou had earned Lyon a last-gasp 2-1 win in the reverse fixture at the Stade Gerland a fortnight ago, and Gérard Houllier opted to recall him tonight in place of Sylvain Wiltord. But it was a striking change for Olympiacos that made the more immediate impression when Babangida, only included because of a thigh injury to Mihalis Konstantinou, broke the deadlock in the first real attack of the game. The Nigerian coolly drilled a shot over the sprawling Grégory Coupet after latching on to Pantelis Kafes's perfectly-weighted through-ball.
Only two sides in UEFA Champions League history have reached the knockout stages after losing their first three matches but Olympiacos appeared determined to make it three as they dominated a fractious opening period, punctuated by a number of fouls. One by Coupet almost proved costly on 15 minutes when he raced out of his goal to challenge Predrag Djordjević by his right-hand corner flag, but only contrived to trip the effervescent winger.
A past master from dead-ball situations, Rivaldo is not as potent as he once was, and failed to provide a testing cross into a packed Lyon area as the home team looked to capitalise on their dominance. Rivaldo's mantle as Brazil's best free-kick taker has passed to Juninho, who scored a stunning free-kick in these clubs' Matchday 3 meeting. The hosts were clearly stung by that and although the Lyon playmaker's first effort was tame, goalkeeper Kleopas Giannou – deputising for the ill Antonios Nikopolidis – opted to punch clear.
Juninho had another limp attempt midway through the half but finally found his range four minutes before half-time, firing up and over the wall and low to Giannou's left. It was by far the most sweetly-executed free-kick of the night, although the goalkeeper's reaction reflected his thoughts on who was to blame, but he could do nothing three minutes later when Carew made it 2-1. The big man collected a loose ball on the edge of the Olympiacos area, powered through a static back line and hit an unstoppable shot low to Giannou's left.
The goal left the hosts shell-shocked and even the break failed to revive them as Govou spurned two openings inside five minutes after the restart. Mahamadou Diarra was more clinical on 55 minutes, tapping into an empty net after the hapless Giannou had parried Carew's effort into his path. Carew scored his second two minutes later when he headed Juninho's arcing free-kick in via a deflection off the head of Ioannis Okkas. It was the killer blow and with Real Madrid CF defeating Rosenborg BK in Trondheim, Lyon are assured of a top-two finish.