It was one small step for Jose Mourinho but one giant leap for Real Madrid last night as the coach who won the Champions League last season safely saw the nine-times winners into the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years.
"I would rather not play Chelsea and Inter," said Mourinho after Real's convincing win over Lyons. "Emotionally, it is difficult to play against friends. I've played against Chelsea before and it is not easy."
On becoming the first coach to reach the quarter-finals with Real in seven years and the first to take them to the Spanish Cup final in the same time, he said: "They were targets but only small ones. We are on the right road. If the titles don't come this season then they will come next season. I am convinced we will end up winning things. I don't want the president to be too euphoric. This is normal for me. This is just part of the progression of the team."
Having gone out last year to the same team and failed to cross this hurdle for six consecutive seasons it was a nervous first 40 minutes. But when Marcelo scored the opening goal with a fine individual effort, there was no stopping Real's progression.
He broke the deadlock eight minutes before half-time when he found himself inside the Lyons penalty area. He swapped passes with Cristiano Ronaldo and then weaved his way past Cris and Dejan Lovren before lashing a shot beyond Hugo Lloris. The Lyons goalkeeper got a hand to the shot but could not stop it reaching his top left-hand corner.
Two minutes later, the ball was in the back of Lloris's net again, this time from a bullet header from Karim Benzema only for the linesman's flag to be raised for offside. Benzema also forced Lloris into an acrobatic save after he had shot from a Marcelo cross as Real went for the second.
Mourinho's name rang around the Bernabeu just before the break although it had not been the perfect half. Marcelo, Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe had all been booked and Ronaldo looked less than 100 per cent fit. The Portuguese had gone close on 26 minutes, cutting in from the left and forcing Lloris into a brilliant finger-tip save, but having missed the last two games he looked short of his best.
Lyons had their chances, too. Lisandro found space in front of Madrid's defence and lashed one shot over on the quarter-hour as Real pushed forward in search of the opener.
The visitors brought Bafe Gomis on at half-time for Jimmy Briand but it was Madrid who extended their lead. Benzema struck with his 20th goal in all competitions this season. Marcelo played the ball forward early and as Lyons' defenders dithered, the Frenchman reacted quicker than anyone to draw Lloris and shoot past him for Real's third goal of the tie.
Confirmation that Ronaldo had not been fully fit came on 74 minutes when he was replaced by Emmanuel Adebayor. The Portuguese said afterwards: "I'd prefer to play Barcelona a bit further down the line. I don't mind if we play Manchester United next."
Two minutes after his substitution, Real scored the third from Angel di Maria and all Real had to do was play down the clock on Mourinho's greatest night so far as coach. At the final whistle both sets of players put on T-shirts carrying goodwill messages for the Barcelona defender Eric Abidal, who has been diagnosed with a tumour in his liver. "Some things in football go beyond rivalry," added Mourinho.
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1) Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Alonso, Khedira; Di Maria (Granero, 79), Ozil, Ronaldo (Adebayor, 74); Benzema (Diarra, 84). Substitutes not used Adan (gk), Canales, Arbeloa, Albiol.
Lyons (4-1-2-2-1): Lloris; Reveillere, Cris, Lovren, Cissokho; Toulalan; Gourcuff (Pied, 69), Kallstrom; Briand (Gomis, h-t), Delgado (Pjanic, 80); Lisandro. Substitutes not used Vercoutre (gk), Diakhate, Kolodzieczak, Gonalons.
Referee D Skomina (Slovenia).
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