A last-minute leveller from Lisandro fired Olympique Lyonnais into the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for the seventh season running, cancelling out Ryan Babel's superb strike and delivering a major blow to Liverpool FC's qualifying hopes.
It looked as though the visitors' campaign had been revived by Babel's pinpoint 20-metre shot on 83 minutes as a close game burst into life in the dying moments. Liverpool had produced a spirited performance, keeping OL quiet for long periods and forcing Hugo Lloris to make a series of fine saves. Yet with seconds remaining, Michel Bastos's flicked header sent Lisandro galloping into the penalty area, and the Argentinian supplied a cool finish over the advancing Pepe Reina. The draw means Lyon are guaranteed a top-two spot in Group E, while Liverpool fall five points adrift of second-placed ACF Fiorentina.
Mindful of his side's urgent need for points, Rafael Benítez filled his midfield with attacking players, although Yossi Benayoun, Andriy Voronin and Dirk Kuyt all showed impressive defensive discipline early on as the Reds' compact formation denied Lyon space. Aside from long-range efforts from Bastos and Bafétimbi Gomis, both claimed easily by Reina, there was little threat from the home team in a tense first half shaded by Liverpool.
Boosted by the presence of Fernando Torres despite a groin problem, the five-time European champions raided with purpose whenever an opportunity arose. Emiliano Insúa laid on the match's first chance for Torres on 12 minutes, the Spaniard meeting his cross with a low first-time strike that Lloris saved with his boot. Anthony Réveillère was struggling with an injury when Insúa found room again moments later, this time squaring for Benayoun whose control teed up Kuyt only for Lloris to tip over the Dutchman's volley.
Réveillère was subsequently replaced, soon to be followed by another injury victim Miralem Pjanić, as OL's concerns grew. Fortunately for Claude Puel's charges, Lloris was very much on his game, the France goalkeeper brilliantly denying Voronin, again with his foot, after the Ukrainian had latched on to a long through pass. The contest remained tight and tactical as both sides probed but failed to find the killer pass. Aly Cissokho tried hard to stir the Ligue 1 outfit early in the second period, twice surging up the left and delivering good crosses, yet Ederson rifled the first over before Bastos's looping header sailed narrowly over the crossbar.
Most of the good openings were going to the Merseysiders, however, and only another wonderful Lloris stop kept Liverpool at bay when Insúa picked out Lucas, who had ghosted into space on the left of the penalty area. The Brazilian's placed attempt looked goalbound but Lloris displayed stunning reflexes by thrusting out his left hand, Cissokho clearing Kuyt's overhead follow-up effort off the line. Not to be outdone, Reina then pulled off a fine save at the other end, rushing out to foil Lisandro after Sotiris Kyrgiakos's weak back-header, and it seemed as though that save would prove crucial when Babel found the top corner with a thunderous strike. However, there was to be no denying Lisandro, and Lyon, at the last.