A decisive display from Karim Benzema steered Olympique Lyonnais into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, the France striker setting up one goal and scoring the other to help his side to the victory at ACF Fiorentina that ensured a top-two finish in Group F.
Lyon needed only a point reach the last 16 for a sixth consecutive season and began in a mode that suggested they wanted to leave no room for error. They had established a two-goal lead by the 27th minute, Benzema setting up Jean II Makoun to score from close range before drilling in the second himself. Alberto Gilardino pulled one back just before the break with a fine header but, having been unable to conjure an equaliser, the hosts are out of the qualifying race and must now turn their attention to the UEFA Cup.
It had started promisingly for Fiorentina when Zdravko Kuzmanović fired the first shot, Hugo Lloris turning his low drive round the post. Though Lyon looked uncertain at the back, they were certainly dangerous going forward and duly took the lead on the quarter-hour. Kader Keita whipped a low ball across the face of goal from the right and, though the pass evaded Benzema, the striker retrieved possession and delivered a low cut-back for Makoun to rifle in at the near post.
Kuzmanović missed a great chance to equalise when a loose ball fell kindly for him in the area, his skewed shot flying wide and, after surviving Juninho Pernambucano's 30-metre free-kick by the width of the crossbar, the Viola were soon further in arrears. Picking up the ball outside the area after Juninho had robbed Riccardo Montolivo of possession, the 20-year-old Benzema advanced before unleashing a low strike which gave Sébastien Frey no chance.
To their credit, Fiorentina recovered swiftly from the double setback and pulled one back on the stroke of half-time. They had come close moments earlier, denied first by the outstretched boot of Lyon's Italian defender Fabio Grosso and then by the woodwork when Adrian Mutu's bullet header from a corner struck the upright. Gilardino, however, made no mistake, meeting Mario Alberto Santana's swirling cross with a superb header into the top corner.
The goal gave a feisty Fiorentina fresh hope for the start of the second half and, having survived an early scare when Juninho hit the crossbar again with another scorching free-kick from distance, the Serie A side applied plenty of pressure, Mutu slashing wide after Gilardino had chested down. The momentum was building for the hosts, who were denied again when Kuzmanović's effort struck Cris and rebounded off the post, summing up their evening.
Despite vocal support Fiorentina's late pressure failed to produce the two goals they needed to stay in the competition and it was Lyon who came closest to another goal, Ederson's thunderous volley rebounding off the woodwork. Instead the Viola will travel to bottom side FC Steaua Bucureşti on Matchday 6 needing a point to secure third place and a transfer to the UEFA Cup. Lyon have loftier ambitions and play host to FC Bayern München in a fortnight knowing a draw would clinch top spot.