Olympique Lyonnais secured a richly-deserved 2-0 victory against Real Madrid CF in Group E to emulate their opening-day success of last season.
There were mixed reactions in the Lyon camp when the draw again pitted them with Madrid in the first group game, exactly a year after the French champions' emphatic 3-0 win. But fears of a backlash from the nine-time European champions were quickly dispelled as Lyon dominated from the outset. They could have had more than the two goals scored by Fred and Tiago to show for their first-half superiority, but in the end that proved enough against an off-colour Madrid side still finding their feet under new coach Fabio Capello.
Lyon coach Gérard Houllier had predicted a tighter match than 12 months ago, but the early exchanges suggested otherwise. Juninho Pernambucano, the architect of last year's triumph, instantly asserted his influence in midfield where Mahamadou Diarra was in subdued mood on his return to Stade Gerland. The Brazilian had the game's first effort on seven minutes, drawing a fine two-handed save from Iker Casillas with a long-range free-kick. Madrid's new-look team struggled to find fluency and with Lyon playing at a relentless pace, the opening goal duly arrived in the eleventh minute. Juninho's perfectly-weighted ball caught out Fabio Cannavaro and allowed Fred to lob delicately over Casillas. The Madrid keeper was in the thick of the action again moments later, brilliantly saving Florent Malouda's header.
Tiago on target
Capello's brave decision to deploy Antonio Cassano and Raúl González behind Ruud van Nistelrooij seemed to be backfiring as the visitors were overrun in midfield. David Beckham's wayward shot from inside his own half highlighted Madrid's growing frustration. The Lyon players had no such difficulties linking up and they scored again on 31 minutes, Sidney Govou slipping a clever pass through for Tiago to poke in. Juninho quickly looked to kill the match off, striking a vicious free-kick goalwards from more than 40 metres which Casillas parried straight to Malouda, but the Madrid No1 reacted swiftly to keep out the ensuing header.
Madrid's defenders became increasingly hesitant and Anthony Réveillère squandered a glorious opportunity before Malouda crashed a shot against the bar following another Cannavaro slip. Juninho's magical first-half showing was almost crowned by an added-time goal but this time his swerving left-wing set-piece was saved acrobatically by the overworked Casillas. José Antonio Reyes replaced Cassano at the break and the Spaniard, on loan from Arsenal FC, immediately gave Madrid a more positive edge. He produced their first attempt on target, dealt with easily by Grégory Coupet, and threatened to link up with Van Nistelrooij on numerous occasions before Beckham made way for Guti as Capello sought to change the pattern of the play.
It was, however, business as usual just before the hour, Juninho rippling the side-netting with another sublime free-kick. Lyon dropped a gear in the closing stages, particularly after the withdrawal of the inspirational Juninho. Indeed, Madrid might have pulled a goal back 12 minutes from time, but Van Nistelrooij struck their one clear opening of the night wide of the near post.