Olympique Lyonnais coach Alain Perrin reserved special praise for Karim Benzema after his late goals ensured the French champions' place in the knockout phase.
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Olympique Lyonnais coach Alain Perrin praised striker Karim Benzema after his two late goals ensured the French champions reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League at the expense of Rangers FC. Perrin admitted he did not think the game was safe "until the third goal went in" and feared the worst after the young striker missed an excellent second-half chance to double Lyon's lead. The victory capped a remarkable recovery for the Ligue 1 side, who had lost their opening two games in Group E, and made defeat all the harder to take for Rangers manager Walter Smith.
Alain Perrin, Lyon coach
This was the scenario we wanted to be in. We didn't do well in the first leg against Rangers [a 3-0 defeat on Matchday 2], but we got it right tonight. We knew Rangers wouldn't hold back and give us time on the ball. We played an attacking game and it worked out in the end. [On Benzema and Jean-Claude Darcheville's second-half misses in quick succession with the score still 0-1] Often these things can be the turning point in the game and, at that stage, I really felt Rangers would equalise.
Karim had an incredible match and he was decisive at the crucial moments. He was looking to score and he finished very well, but that miss could have hurt us because I really felt Rangers would have scored. We made things difficult for ourselves after a slow start. But, on the whole, it's a great achievement. Rangers have a very good home record, but we felt it was 50-50 and we went at them from the start. We must now look at the teams who have finished first place to find who we can get in the next round. Hopefully, we don't get such a tough tie. But I'm just happy with the performance tonight as I didn't think we were going to qualify until the third goal went in.
Walter Smith, Rangers manager
The game in itself was very similar to the game in Lyon, only there we got the first goal. Lyon had to come at us and we picked them off on the break, but tonight they did that to us. I don't think their early goal hurt us too much, but the way we conceded the second goal was poor. We were coming back into the game, but that killed it for us. I felt for the majority of the second half we dominated the game. But they defended very well and restricted us to half chances. In the Champions League, the margin for error is very slim and once they got the second goal, the game was theirs.
I don't think it's any consolation to have done well [over the course of the group stage], but it's been an experience. At the start we didn't know how we would do. But I thought tonight we showed we're far better than we were at the start of the tournament. We certainly didn't play as badly as the scoreline suggests. We're disappointed to be going into the UEFA Cup, we wanted to be playing in the Champions League. It's no consolation right now. When you have a team with no European pedigree, you don't know how things will go. But the fact we did well in this group doesn't take away from the disappointment of not progressing.