FLORENCE - Olympique Lyon qualified for the Champions League last 16 and ended Fiorentina's hopes of progressing with a 2-1 win over their Group F rivals in an exciting encounter at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Tuesday. Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun fired the French champions ahead in the 15th minute and France striker Karim Benzema drove in from outside the box after a strong run from midfield to double the lead 12 minutes later. Italy forward Alberto Gilardino pulled one back for Fiorentina on the stroke of halftime when he headed a Mario Alberto Santana cross into the top corner. With Bayern Munich also through to the knockout stage, Fiorentina, third in the group with three points, only have a UEFA Cup place to play for when they visit Steaua Bucharest next month in their final game. Lyon and Bayern have 11 points apiece and will fight it out for top spot when they meet in France next month. "We showed in the first leg (a 1-1 draw in Munich) that we have what it takes to beat them (Bayern)," Lyon coach Claude Puel told French TV Channel Canal Plus. Fiorentina surged forward after conceding the opener, knowing only a win would do. This created opportunities for Lyon and Juninho crashed a free kick on to the crossbar before Benzema made it 2-0. But the home team did not give up and Gilardino's deserved goal came shortly after his strike partner Adrian Mutu had hit the post with a header. Both sides kept attacking in the second half. Juninho hit the crossbar again with another free kick and Fiorentina's Riccardo Montolivo and Lyon's Kader Keita had shots well saved. Fiorentina's Zdravko Kuzmanovic hit the post with a deflected shot and Gilardino headed a good chance to equalise wide before Lyon's Ederson gave the woodwork another pounding in the closing stages. Montolivo said Fiorentina's failure to stay on top when leading in the opening-day 2-2 draw at Lyon and this month's 1-1 draw at home with Bayern was more to blame for their exit than Tuesday's defeat. "Our regrets regard the game in Lyon and (the one) against Bayern Munich at home, when we lacked the pinch of experience needed to land a win," the midfielder told Sky television. "Today we made a few mistakes and they punished us. That's football."
25 November 2008
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