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Satisfied Houllier pays tribute to near-perfect Lyon

Written by: Staff

MADRID, Nov 22 (Reuters) Olympique Lyon coach Gerard Houllier said his side's 2-2 draw against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu was one of the most satisfying results they had achieved in the Champions League this season.

Despite missing several of their first-choice forwards, a dominant Lyon went 2-0 up in a little over half an hour against the nine-times European champions through goals from the outstanding John Carew and midfielder Florent Malouda.

But Real pegged them back to 2-2 and Lyon would have lost the game had not keeper Gregory Coupet saved a last-minute penalty from Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The draw ensured that Lyon would progress to the last 16 as winners of Group E, while Real had to settle for second place.

''There were some very positive things about this game,'' said Houllier. ''It was one of the most difficult games I've had in the Champions League and I'm really proud of the way the players worked and what we did. They were fantastic out there.

''This was a good result against a good team and we saw some spectacular football. There was rhythm, intensity and emotion. I thought we might beat them, but to win at the Bernabeu you really have to be at the very top of your game.'' Asked what the secret was to his side's near perfect record this season, the Frenchman replied: ''It's down to a mixture of talent, the character of my players and the atmosphere within the team.

''It is also due to the discipline and rigour with which we work. There is an element of humility about this team that is important too.

CAREW HANDFUL ''Once we scored the first goal I knew we would finish top of the group. After 20 games played it is the first time we've conceded two goals and that shows that we were playing against a good team.'' Opposite number Fabio Capello admitted his team had struggled to cope with Carew, who tormented the Real defence throughout, and Brazilian midfielder Juninho who supplied the free kick that led to Lyon's second goal.

''John Carew was a handful for everyone,'' said the Italian.

''I know him well because he played for me at Roma, but I've never seen him play as well as he did tonight. If a scout had come to the match looking for a great player, they would have seen one there tonight.

''And no player in the world hits the ball like Juninho. He's a phenomenon. You just don't know where it is going.'' Despite his team's defensive problems, Capello said he was pleased that they had become the first side to breach the Lyon defence in this season's Champions League.

''No one had scored against them before and we had the chance to score three tonight,'' he said. ''They are a very good team and we had the chance to beat them with that penalty. I think we saw a great game out there.'' Reuters DH VV0938

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