Lyon fire warning to Champions League rivals
LYON, France, March 9 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon fired a strong warning to their rivals in the Champions League by qualifying in style for the quarter-finals.
The French champions, inspired by two-goal midfielder Tiago, demolished a solid PSV Eindhoven 4-0 on Wednesday and 5-0 on aggregate to reach the last eight for the third consecutive year.
'I'm proud of what the players did tonight. Not only did they have a great match but they proved that they are one of the best sides in Europe,' coach Gerard Houllier said.
'Our qualification is deserved and it has nothing to do with luck. We reached the quarter-finals last year and the year before. To me, it means something,' he said.
It certainly confirmed that Lyon can no longer be taken lightly with the Ligue 1 leaders unbeaten since the start on the Champions League.
They have scored no less than 18 goals in eight matches and conceded only four.
Lyon have never been beyond the quarter-finals, having been eliminated by PSV on penalties in 2005 and Porto in 2004 when the Portuguese champions were en route for the title.
But Houllier said his team have learned from their previous campaigns and now have what it takes to go at least one step further.
'When I watch this team play I can't help but tell myself there are players who don't realise their true worth,' Houllier said. 'Some of them don't know how gifted they are.
'Our first goal (on Wednesday) was just brilliant. It was a smart effort from Florent Malouda who set it up perfectly for Tiago,' he said.
'After they scored this goal I knew I didn't need to worry anymore. I knew we were going to have a great match.'
Tiago made it 2-0 in the first-half injury time before Sylvain Wiltord and Brazilian striker Fred completed the rout with a goal apiece after the break.
'We deserved to lose tonight,' PSV coach Guus Hiddink said. 'We bowed to a team which was stronger than us. Lyon still have to make themselves a name on the international scene but I'm certain that they have the potential for this.
'I want to wish them good luck for the rest of the competition.'
After Lyon clinched their fourth successive Ligue 1 title last year, chairman Jean-Michel Aulas made it clear that winning the European Cup would be one of their goals this season.
'The final is to be played at the Stade de France. I can see a sign in this. Playing this final will be like playing at home. It only takes two hours to go to Paris from here thanks to the high-speed train,' he said.
Lyon still have to wait until Friday to learn the name of their next opponents but they already know that they will be without their inspirational playmaker Juninho for the first leg.
The Brazilian midfielder is suspended after he was booked on Wednesday.
'We will have to do without our star player,' said Houllier. 'But if you want to win the Champions League like we do, you can't bank only on one man and you sometimes have to do without key members of your team.
'You can never tell what will happen in such a competition. Nobody would have bet a penny on Benfica winning at Liverpool but they did it,' Houllier added of his former club.
'The Champions League is full of surprises.'