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Olympique Lyonnais completed the UEFA Champions League group stage with an unbeaten record although they had to come from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against a well-organised FC Steaua Bucuresti.
The Romanian champions knew they would finish third in Group E regardless of the outcome here, and warmed up for their spring UEFA Cup campaign with an impressive display against an under-strength Lyon who had clinched top spot with a Matchday 5 draw at Real Madrid CF. Nicolae Dica opened the scoring early on, and was a menace to the home defence throughout, but Steaua ultimately had to settle for a point after Alou Diarra's 12th-minute equaliser.
Stress-free final group games have become as much a feature of early December in Lyon as the city's traditional Fête des Lumières, and as in the previous three years, the Ligue 1 team rested several players with qualification guaranteed. Defensive duo Eric Abidal and Cris were among the absentees as Lyon's new-look back line was breached as early as the second minute. Fit-again captain Claudio Caçapa was slow to react to Sorin Paraschiv's right-wing cross, allowing Dica to control on his chest and smartly volley in his fourth goal of this UEFA Champions League season.
It was not the start the majority of a capacity crowd had been anticipating but these fans were celebrating when Diarra levelled soon after. Restored to the lineup at Jérémy Toulalan's expense, the French international midfielder rose unopposed to head in his first Lyon goal from Kim Källström's corner. That strike brought some relief but the French champions continued to lack their usual assurance and almost went behind again when Vasilica Cristocea shot narrowly wide of Grégory Coupet's far post.
The tempo slowed considerably as Lyon tightened up at the back, and although the Romanian side enjoyed plenty of possession they struggled to create chances. Steaua captain Mirel Radoi was exerting considerable influence having recently returned from four months on the sidelines, but the athletic Diarra invariably stood in the visitors' way whenever they neared Coupet's goal. For their part, Lyon were subdued, and John Carew's sizzling cross-shot on the stroke of half-time, pushed to safety by Cornel Cernea, represented only their second effort on target.
Sensing an opportunity to claim a major scalp, Steaua began the second period in more positive fashion with Radoi, Dica and Petre Marin all firing over. Lyon were getting stretched and Banel Nicolita almost scored twice in quick succession. Stirred into action, Gérard Houllier's team came back into the contest as Källström volleyed over before Hatem Ben Arfa rifled into the side-netting. Ben Arfa, deputising for the suspended Florent Malouda, then set up Sidney Govou only for Cernea to deny the Frenchman with a smart stop.
Yet it was Steaua who looked the more likely winners as the tie approached its conclusion, with the introductions of Toulalan and Sylvain Wiltord for the last 20 minutes evidence of Houllier's concern. Toulalan's first touch was a timely intervention as he hacked the ball off his line after Coupet had parried Dica's close-range attempt, but that was as close as Steaua came to a memorable victory.
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