Sevilla took a big step towards reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in six years as Wissam Ben Yedder’s header ensured a 1-0 win over Lyon on Tuesday.
Ben Yedder was left with the simple task of heading into an empty net from Luciano Vietto’s knockdown early in the second half, but Vietto had a night to forget in front of goal as he skied a penalty over the bar 20 minutes from time.
Lyon hit the woodwork either side of half-time through Nabil Fekir and Corentin Tolisso, but were overrun in the second period as Sevilla held on for a deserved win.
Victory takes Jorge Sampaoli’s men level with Juventus at the top of Group H on four points after the Italian champions were 4-0 victors at Dinamo Zagreb. Lyon slip to third a point further back.
“It is difficult to explain why there was such a big difference between the first and second half,” said Sampaoli.
“The second half was by far the best we have played in my time at Sevilla. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take all of our chances.”
And Lyon coach Bruno Genesio hopes Sevilla’s inability to add to their winning margin could still come back to haunt them if a place in the last 16 comes down to the head-to-head between the two.
“There is a good chance that it comes down to the last game at home against Sevilla and goal difference could be important,” said Genesio.
“Tonight we squandered at least one point in the race for second place, but we showed we can compete.”
Sampaoli made seven changes to the side that started Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao with a host of first team regulars recalled.
However, it was the visitors who threatened most early on. Fekir was forced into a more advanced role on his Champions League debut in the absence of star striker Alexandre Lacazette and was desperately unlucky when his fierce shot from outside the area came back off the bar.
Sevilla, who have now won 15 of their last 17 European ties at home, finally worked their way into the game midway through the half when Anthony Lopes rushed from his goal to block Vietto’s effort when clean through.
Ben Yedder then had a goal ruled out for offside against Samir Nasri in the build-up.
However, the Europa League holders had goalkeeper Sergio Rico to thank for being level at the break as his outstretched foot turned Maxwel Cornet’s low effort to safety.
Sevilla were greeted by a few timid boos as they left the field at half-time, but came out transformed at the start of the second half.
Nasri had already seen a fierce effort saved by Lopes by the time Ben Yedder followed up Vietto’s intelligent header back across goal to nod the hosts into a 53rd-minute lead.
Rico came to his side’s rescue again two minutes later with a brilliant save from Tolisso after an excellent through ball from Fekir.
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