Football: Forest stand firm against Lyon's assault

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The Independent Online
Lyon 0 Nottingham Forest 0 (Forest win 1-0 on aggregate)

Nottingham Forest revived memories of their European glory years with a defensive performance that echoed the finest of the Brian Clough era. Their fifth successive European clean sheet meant Paul McGregor's late first-leg goal at the City Ground remained the only one in this tense Uefa Cup third-round tie.

Forest can now look forward to a quarter-final in March. Sadly for Forest, Colin Cooper will miss the first leg after being booked for needlessly kicking the ball away. The draw will be made on Friday.

For Olympique Lyonnais the night brought only misery. As in Nottingham they finished with no goals and 10 men, Florian Maurice being dismissed in the closing minutes for elbowing Cooper.

It was a night for heroes in this ancient French city and Forest had plenty of them. Mark Crossley, the goalkeeper, and the England defenders, Cooper and Stuart Pearce, stood out, but they all deserved praise. Jason Lee epitomised the collective effort, running himself to exhaustion in his first match in 17 days.

Lee was ably assisted by Stephen Howe, who overcame a nervous start to only his fifth full appearance to play a full part in the drama. The pair had not played together before but, within five minutes they demonstrated a natural understanding. Chris Bart-Williams, who had a sterling game in the midfield holding role, chipped the ball into Lee who chested it on to the running Howe. Unfortunately, he shot well wide.

Lyon had a few long-range shots but, with 20 minutes gone, Forest had quietened the crowd enough for their own fans to be heard. But then Maurice galvanised the atmosphere again. First the talented striker had a shot blocked by Cooper, then he headed just wide at the far post.

The game was increasingly being played in a 20-yard zone in front of the Forest penalty area, but there were occasional spells of Forest pressure. During one of these, Lee's aerial power so angered Pascal Olmeta that the Lyon goalkeeper was booked for over-reacting to a challenge.

As half-time approached, Crossley showed he had overcome some uncharacteristic early diffidence in style. Having dealt with a low shot from Ludovic Giuly he touched a Maurice free-kick around the post. From the corner he made a brilliant save from Cedric Bardon.

Maurice continued to be a threat and only a late block prevented him grabbing an equaliser after 52 minutes. Giuly and Bardon then had goalbound shots blocked as Forest continued to fray their supporters' nerves.

Frank Clark brought on Alf-Inge Haaland in an attempt to ease the pressure, but it almost led to a goal as the Norwegian lost possession. The ball came to Giuly whose shot brought another outstanding save from Crossley.

With three minutes left Maurice lashed out at Cooper and departed. His sorry exit did not quite sum up Lyon's night, Stephane Roche did. When the referee finally ended five agonising minutes of injury time, and Crossley had left his unblemished goal, Roche angrily had one last shot - it hit the bar.

Forest's night was encapsulated by Frank Clark basking in the adoration of their fans. The next task for the master tactician is clear. After defeating successive teams of French strikers (their last opponents were Auxerre) a call for advice from Jaques Chirac must be imminent.

Lyon (4-5-1): Olmeta; Moulin, Sassus, Marcelo, Roy; Rivenet (Assadourian, 77), Deplace, Giuly (Roche, 86), Devaux, Bardon (Chavrondier, 77); Maurice.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-1-1): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Bart-Williams, Gemmill (Haaland, 72), Woan; Howe; Lee (Silenzi, 85).

Referee: M van der Ende (Netherlands).

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