Lyon advance wins Europe's attention

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The Independent Football

Lyon, the French champions, are now setting their sights on conquering Europe. Despite playing it safe so far, their 3-0 victory away at Werder Bremen, in the Champions' League on Wednesday, revealed to Europe what their French rivals have known for some time.

Lyon, the French champions, are now setting their sights on conquering Europe. Despite playing it safe so far, their 3-0 victory away at Werder Bremen, in the Champions' League on Wednesday, revealed to Europe what their French rivals have known for some time.

Last season, Lyon reached the Champions' League quarter-finals for the first time, but their ambitions were overshadowed by Monaco's march to the final. This season, they finished top of qualifying group D, losing only once, to Manchester United, but still failed to attract the attention given to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea or Juventus.

This might change now as Lyon head towards the last eight for the second time in a row in their fifth successive Champions' League campaign. European Cup statistics show that clubs who won 3-0 away in the competition have always qualified for the next round.

Lyon's performance on Wednesday was such that their manager, Paul Le Guen, was thrilled. "I'm fully satisfied. It was a stunner and I'm sure we have impressed the rest of Europe," he said.

Their defensive strength has always been Lyon's main asset and they have been able to impose themselves on French football in the last couple of seasons without a real marksman. They released the Brazilian Sonny Anderson two years ago and managed to do without his compatriot Elber, who never settled in France.

Their main weapon is another Brazilian, international midfielder Juninho Pernambucano, who has scored from direct free-kicks 18 times since joining Lyon in 2001. The last one, Lyon's third goal on Wednesday, was a wonderful effort from 30 yards. "It was a good goal," he said. "But I want to stress the importance of the team's game rather than my performance."

In the 1999 Uefa Cup second round, Lyon defeated Werder 3-0 in the first leg and lost 4-0 in the second. Werder's first experience of the Champions' League knock-out stages proved chastening, and their sporting director, Klaus Allofs, said: "We discovered that you don't have the luxury of missing chances against a top European team like Lyon. Lyon have more Champions' League experience than us and they have already beaten a lot of good teams. We made too many mistakes."

Allofs and the coach, Thomas Schaaf, were at a loss to explain why their normally reliable forwards were such failures against the Ligue 1 leaders. Schaaf's side averaged two goals per game in the opening group phase and with 49 goals from 22 games they are the leading scorers in the Bundesliga.

There was nothing wrong with their build-up play in a match they dominated for long periods, but Nelson Valdez and Miroslav Klose were guilty of horrendous misses. "Virtually everything Lyon shot towards goal went in," said the defender Paul Stalteri. "From four shots, they scored three goals. For all our chances, we got nothing."

But Werder have not given up hope of turning the tie around. "We know we can play a lot better," Allofs said. "We weren't as sure of ourselves as we normally are. For the second leg, we must simply play a great game."

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