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Malbranque powers Lyon to Plzeň success

Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 FC Viktoria Plzeň
Steed Malbranque set up three goals as Rémi Garde's side atoned for conceding a soft early header against the Czech champions.

Samuel Umtiti congratulates Alexandre Lacazette on scoring Lyon's second
Samuel Umtiti congratulates Alexandre Lacazette on scoring Lyon's second ©AFP/Getty Images

Steed Malbranque cut a swathe through FC Viktoria Plzeň with three assists as Olympique Lyonnais took a three-goal advantage in their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie.

The experienced midfielder steered Lyon off the rocks after they conceded early, teeing up Gueïda Fofana for the equaliser before laying on second-half finishes for Alexandre Lacazette and Arnold Mvuemba. Lacazette then set up Fofana to make it 4-1 with 20 minutes remaining to leave the Czech champions on the brink.

Lyon looked leaden of foot when Plzeň took a shock lead; there were barely two minutes on the clock when Jan Kovařík's bread-and-butter cross found Tomáš Hořava unmarked, and he could scarcely believe his luck as he planted a header low past Anthony Lopes. However, Malbranque marshalled Lyon back into the game; Petr Bolek managed to save the 34-year-old's shot but had no chance from Malbranque's resulting corner, which skidded into the net off the knee of Fofana.

The impetus was with Lyon from then on, but a rickety-looking Plzeň defence proved oddly effective until half-time. Malbranque made his presence felt again thereafter, laying on two more goals before being taken off midway through the second period. First, his pass gave Lacazette a clear sight of goal on 53 minutes and the French international struck the ball low past Bolek. Then, as Lyon broke quickly eight minutes later, Malbranque set up Arnold Mvuemba, who controlled with his chest and slammed a shot into the net.

Plzeň were reeling, and their second-leg task looked more daunting still after Fofana got his second of the night with 20 minutes to go. His first had an element of luck, but there was no denying the artistry involved as he stroked in from just inside the box after running on to Lacazette's delivery.