Olympique Lyonnais kept alive their hopes of reaching the knockout stage for a fifth consecutive year by defeating VfB Stuttgart 4-2 in a pulsating match at the Stade de Gerland.
Ben Arfa double
Early goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Kim Källström suggested a comfortable evening for Alain Perrin's men but that was far from the case as Group E's bottom club showed admirable spirit. Mario Gómez pulled one back and, though the hosts led 3-1 at the break courtesy of another strike from the excellent Ben Arfa, Gómez again halved the deficit before earning a penalty that was squandered by Thomas Hitzlsperger. Juninho Pernambucano rounded off the win with a simple late tap-in as Lyon moved a point behind second-placed Rangers FC – assuring themselves of UEFA Cup qualification at least – while Stuttgart, still point-less, dropped out of contention entirely.
The Bundesliga title-holders were strengthened by the return of several key figures, including captain Fernando Meira, but soon found themselves in difficulty as Lyon, unchanged from their 2-0 victory in Germany a fortnight ago, scored from their first meaningful attack. Karim Benzema's deft flick started a delightful move that saw the ball switched swiftly from right to left by Sidney Govou and Källström before Ben Arfa struck a left-footed shot inside the far post via a deflection off Andreas Beck.
Benzema then screwed an effort wide after latching on to Juninho's delicate pass but the second goal was not long in coming. Govou skilfully found space before lobbing a cross to Källström on the edge of the penalty area and the Swedish international, after turning past Sami Khedira, volleyed home emphatically on 15 minutes.
Stuttgart might have been forgiven for fearing the worst, yet to their credit they bounced back instantly, Hitzlsperger seeing his long-range drive spilled by Rémy Vercoutre, allowing Gómez to turn in the rebound. The goal sparked the visitors into life and they were soon peppering shots in on Vercoutre's goal. The Lyon custodian atoned for his earlier mistake, however, saving low to deny Cacau as the Brazilian raced clear on 21 minutes, then parrying ferocious strikes from Meira and Khedira.
If Lyon looked vulnerable at the back, they remained dangerous on the counterattack. Stuttgart keeper Raphael Schäfer produced a fine stop to deflect Benzema's shot over, only to be beaten again eight minutes before half-time. There was little Schäfer could do about Ben Arfa's sublime strike, the 20-year-old bamboozling Ludovic Magnin on the right and unleashing a right-footed attempt high into the top corner.
Stuttgart came out fighting after the interval and were rewarded with a second goal on 56 minutes, Meira threading the ball through to a marauding Beck whose low cross was turned in by Gómez. Suddenly the French champions appeared edgy and Gómez broke clear again moments later, only to be clipped by Fábio Santos as he shaped to shoot. The referee pointed to the penalty spot but Hitzlsperger's powerful shot was brilliantly kept out by Vercoutre. The keeper frustrated Hitzlsperger again as Stuttgart pressed forward, but Lyon finished the stronger and after substitute Kader Keita had been denied, Juninho sealed the victory.