Carlos Tévez's late equaliser raised Manchester United FC's hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals as Sir Alex Ferguson's team secured a draw at Olympique Lyonnais, who had looked set for a first success against English opposition in 40 years when Karim Benzema scored on 54 minutes.
Milestones for veterans
On a night when two veterans reached significant milestones, it was two younger players who stole the headlines with their goalscoring prowess. Ryan Giggs struggled to inspire United on his 100th UEFA Champions League appearance, and when the visitors did succeed in breaking through Lyon's determined defence, they were invariably denied by a commanding Grégory Coupet, playing his 500th match for the club. United never gave up, however, and will be confident of progressing at Old Trafford in a fortnight, when Lyon will be without the suspended Anthony Réveillère.
United issued an early warning when Cristiano Ronaldo's shot deflected wide off Jean-Alain Boumsong, yet it was Lyon who settled first. Only a last-ditch challenge from Rio Ferdinand prevented Sidney Govou from latching on to Fabio Grosso's low cross, while Benzema narrowly failed to make clean contact with Juninho Pernambucano's corner. With seven home goals conceded in the group stage, Lyon's defensive frailty was a cause for concern and Alain Perrin's decision to deploy right-back François Clerc in midfield hinted at a cautious approach. The tactic appeared to working, though, as Govou linked effectively with Grosso on the left while Clerc made several threatening bursts down the opposite flank. With Lyon firmly in the ascendancy, Ferdinand almost sliced into his own net, then Benzema rifled narrowly over after another pull-back from Clerc.
The English champions carved the clearest opening on 24 minutes, however. Wayne Rooney collected Ronaldo's pinpoint through ball and evaded Sébastien Squillaci's challenge to race clear only for Coupet to stop his shot with his leg. Next, Paul Scholes was frustrated by Boumsong's timely intervention after being released by Giggs and, with Ronaldo increasingly influential, the away team finished the half in menacing fashion. The Portuguese winger forced Coupet into a two-fisted save from his curling free-kick, then glanced a header wide from the resulting corner.
Half-time arrived at the right time for the French title-holders, offering them an opportunity to regroup and return with fresh ideas in the second period. One of those ideas may have been to shoot on sight, which is exactly what Benzema did nine minutes in. After receiving Jérémy Toulalan's pass, the France striker turned brilliantly to his left before unleashing a fizzing low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. It was the 20-year-old's fourth European goal this term and his 26th in all competitions.
Sir Alex reacted by sending on Nani and Tévez, and the two-time European champions immediately played with more urgency. Both sides came close from set-pieces late on, Juninho's long-range effort sliding wide before Ronaldo was kept out by Coupet. Seconds later, however, there was nothing the goalkeeper could do when Tévez rifled in from close range after Fred had inadvertently directed Nani's right-wing cross into his path. It tipped the balance of the tie back towards United.