Champions League

Lyon in winter wonderland after sealing Champions League last-16 berth

2018-12-13 07:40
Nabil Fekir
Nabil Fekir (Getty Images)

Kiev - Nabil Fekir fired Lyon into the Champions League last 16 for the first time in seven years after bagging the crucial equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in the driving snow in Kiev on Wednesday.

Fekir struck for the away side in the 65th minute to cancel out Junior Moraes' 22nd-minute opener for Shakhtar, who had to win at their temporary home of the some 700 kilometres (435 miles) from Donetsk to leapfrog Lyon into second place in Group F.

"There's a lot of emotion, joy, pride and relief as it was difficult this evening. We deserved the result and qualification," Lyon coach Bruno Genesio told RMC Sport.

"I'm very proud of the players because we came here to play and didn't come away from home to play for a draw. I'm really pleased that Nabil scored the goal as people have been questioning him of late."

Lyon held off Shakhtar, who are playing at the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital after martial law was declared in the country's border regions amid tensions with Russia, to keep hold of second spot and a place in the knockout stages, five points behind group winners Manchester City.

It looked for much of the match that Lyon were destined to be knocked out in freezing Kiev, after missing a hatload of chances before Fekir finally curled home the crucial leveller.

"We did everything we could to keep hold of the lead, we couldn't do it... the individual quality of Fekir made the difference," said Shakhtar coach Paulo Fonseca.

Wasteful

Moraes' opener, Shakhtar's only shot of the first half and slipped home after neat work from the lively Ismaily on the left, came just three minutes after Lyon missed the best chance of a host of goalscoring opportunities passed up on the night.

Bertrand Traore was slipped through by a superb pass from Houssem Aouar, but faced with Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov, the Burkinabe attacker scuffed his shot into the stopper's trailing foot.

Seconds later Fekir had a shot well saved, and then Moraes struck, collecting a neat pass from Ismaily and sending the fans who made the trip wild with his 18th goal in 25 matches.

Then came more missed chances for Lyon, with Kenny Tete and Traore both shooting over when well placed, before Memphis Depay curled inches wide seven minutes before the break.

Ferland Mendy and Fekir both went close for the visitors in first-half stoppage time, but could not find away past Pyatov.

Fekir had a goal rightly ruled out for offside 10 minutes after the break, but the France international soon had the equaliser that he and his side deserved.

Depay held the ball up well on the right flank and fed his attacking partner, who drifted across the area and whipped home the decisive leveller.

Lyon had conceded in the 83rd minute or later in their previous three Champions League games, dropping points that left them needing a result on Wednesday, and they wobbled as the hosts pressed for a winner in the final minutes with the snow continuing to hammer down.

Anthony Lopes had to charge of his goal to deny Ismaily, snuffing out Shakhtar's last real opportunity of the night and ensuring a place among the Champions League big boys.

"It was hard in difficult conditions," Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar told RMC Sport.

"We gave ourselves a fright and it's a pity we didn't kill off the game in the first half. The main thing is that we've qualified."

Read more on:    lyon  |  shakhtar donetsk  |  champions league  |  soccer

 

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