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"Super" and "fantastic" were among the superlatives used to describe the performance of Hugo Lloris after the goalkeeper's heroics helped Olympique Lyonnais to earn a dramatic 1-1 draw with Liverpool FC and qualify for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
The seven-time French title-winners struggled to find their feet against their determined English opponents, and Claude Puel's men needed to rely on their agile custodian on several occasions. Lloris, who has recently usurped Steve Mandanda in the pecking order for the France national team, produced sharp stops from Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and Andriy Voronin in the first half, then displayed stunning reflexes to deny Lucas midway through the second period.
Not even the in-form 22-year-old could prevent Ryan Babel's 83rd-minute rocket from arrowing into the top corner, yet Lisandro's last-gasp equaliser earned a share of the spoils. Les Gones' seventh straight qualification for the knockout stages came as some relief to their players after a difficult evening, but nobody was in any doubt who the saviour had been. "We needed to count on a super Hugo again," Ederson, who replaced the injured Miralem Pjanić in the first half, told uefa.com. "Liverpool came here looking to play the game of their lives. We had to dig very deep, and we did."
Former No1 Grégory Coupet became a Lyon legend during his eleven seasons at Stade de Gerland, yet Ederson believes Lloris is a worthy replacement. "Hugo just keeps on getting better," the 23-year-old Brazilian enthused. "He's a true professional who works hard every day. I'm happy to be playing alongside somebody like that because not only is he a top goalkeeper but he is also a humble, nice person." Ederson's praise was echoed by left-back Aly Cissokho, who said: "Hugo was fantastic. We had trouble getting into the match. Our legs seemed a bit heavy. Luckily Hugo made some brilliant saves."
Cissokho was also keen to single out Lisandro after the Argentinian struck his fifth European goal of the season in the final seconds. "I've known Lisandro for a long time," said the 22-year-old, a team-mate of the forward at FC Porto. "I know what he's capable of. He never gives up and despite being fouled a lot, he scored right at the end. The late goal makes our qualification even more beautiful. It shows we have a lot of strength to score so late."
If the hosts were celebrating at the final whistle, Rafael Benítez's charges could not hide their disappointment after conceding another last-gasp goal to Lyon. They remain third in Group E but are now five points adrift of ACF Fiorentina and must rely on OL avoiding defeat in Florence on 24 November to have a chance of progressing. Goalkeeper Pepe Reina is not throwing in the towel, however, saying: "We showed spirit and we need to take that into the next games. That's all we can do. We know we're in a difficult position but we have enough character and quality to get out of this."
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