Olympique Lyonnais came from two goals down to secure a dramatic draw against ACF Fiorentina as Group F got off to a thrilling start.
Returning to the UEFA Champions League after a nine-year absence, the Italian outfit gave an excellent account of themselves and looked set for a superb victory after two headed goals by Alberto Gilardino, which book-ended the first half, left the French double winners reeling. Substitute Frédéric Piquionne's 73rd-minute reply sparked a spirited fightback, however, which was sealed by Karim Benzema's shot four minutes from time.
Lining up in their new fluorescent yellow kit, there was a fresh look about the hosts as new coach Claude Puel included summer signings Hugo Lloris and Jean II Makoun. There was nothing unfamiliar about the way they started, though, pouring forward and pinning Fiorentina on to the back foot. Benzema, operating on the left to accommodate Brazilian striker Fred, appeared dangerous every time he had possession, forcing a corner from which Mathieu Bodmer scooped a shot against the underside of the crossbar.
It had been a highly promising opening from Lyon, yet their flow was halted abruptly when the visitors broke the deadlock on 12 minutes. Jean-Alain Boumsong had been preferred to Cris as centre-back Bodmer's partner, but it was the France defender's poor clearance which allowed Zdravko Kuzmanović to cross for Gilardino to glance in from close range. If the goal instilled confidence in the Fiorentina ranks, Lyon became increasingly uncertain. Sergio Almirón's ferocious free-kick was tipped against the crossbar by Lloris before the goalkeeper had to race from his line to deny Adrian Mutu following another Boumsong lapse.
When Lyon did attack, it was invariably Benzema who instigated things. The 20-year-old cut the ball back to Jérémy Toulalan on the half-hour only for his effort to be parried by Sébastien Frey, then Fred headed Anthony Réveillère's centre wastefully wide. Lyon seemed to have regained their momentum but after Benzema nodded a Makoun cross beyond the far post Fiorentina struck a second, decisive-looking, blow three minutes before the break. With makeshift left-back Kim Källström affording Mutu too much space, the Romanian delivered a swinging cross for Gilardino to steer a superb header back across Lloris and inside the far post.
Lyon had turned around a two-goal deficit against OGC Nice five days before but Fiorentina appeared a far sterner proposition, defending with discipline and in numbers. Frey was also in masterful form, pushing out a shot by Benzema and a Juninho Pernambucano free-kick either side of the hour. He was eventually beaten with 17 minutes left, though, as Benzema – played onside by the injured Luciano Zauri – squared for Piquionne to tap in. That set up a frantic finale, with Juninho having an attempt deflected over before Frey kept out Toulalan's swerving strike. OL's efforts were finally rewarded in the 86th minute when Juninho shaped to fire another free-kick goalwards only to play a short pass to Benzema, whose shot on the turn flicked off the lunging Felipe Melo to give Frey no chance.