Nabil Fekir fired Lyon into the Champions League last-16 for the first time in seven years after bagging the crucial equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in the driving snow in Kiev on Wednesday.
Fekir struck for the away side in the 65th minute to cancel out Junior Moraes’ 22nd-minute opener for Shakhtar, who had to win at their temporary home of the some 700 kilometres (435 miles) from Donetsk to leapfrog Lyon into second place in Group F.
“There’s a lot of emotion, joy, pride and relief as it was difficult this evening. We deserved the result and qualification,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio told RMC Sport. “I’m very proud of the players because we came here to play and didn’t come away from home to play for a draw. I’m really pleased that Nabil scored the goal as people have been questioning him of late.”
Lyon held off Shakhtar, who are playing at the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital after martial law was declared in the country’s border regions amid tensions with Russia, to keep hold of second spot and a place in the knockout stages, five points behind group winners Manchester City.
It looked for much of the match that Lyon were destined to be knocked out in freezing Kiev, after missing a hatload of chances before Fekir finally curled home the crucial leveller.
“We did everything we could to keep hold of the lead, we couldn’t do it… the individual quality of Fekir made the difference,” said Shakhtar coach Paulo Fonseca.
“It was hard in difficult conditions,” Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar told RMC Sport. “We gave ourselves a fright and it’s a pity we didn’t kill off the game in the first half. The main thing is that we’ve qualified.”