Stuttgart out after Lyon loss
Stuttgart were eliminated from the Champions League after losing 4-2 in a captivating contest with Lyon.
By Robin Hackett
Last Updated: 07/11/07 10:56pm
Stuttgart were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night after losing 4-2 in a captivating contest with Lyon.
Two goals from Hatem Ben Arfa, one from Kim Kallstrom and an injury-time tap-in from Juninho proved enough to claim all three points for Lyon despite a brace for Germany international Mario Gomez.
But it could have all been different for the Bundesliga side as they missed a second-half penalty that would have brought the scores level.
Lyon took the lead on six minutes after some fantastic build-up play, switching swiftly from right to left with quick passes before Ben Arfa got his shot away from a tricky angle - unfortunately for the Germans, it took a deflection off full-back Andreas Beck and looped quite limply into the corner for 1-0.
It was far from the start Stuttgart had needed. Coach Armin Veh had vowed to 'make life as difficult as possible' for the hosts before the game, but his side boasted a pointless record in the competition this season and only a win would do.
In the aftermath of the goal, chances went both ways, with Stuttgart receiving some encouragement from the erratic handling of Remy Vercoutre in the Lyon goal: perhaps Gregory Coupet's absence could yield some gains for Veh's men.
But they barely gave themselves the chance to find out. Leaving chasms in their defence, the Germans could not prevent Karim Benzema twice racing away and, although he spurned both opportunities, Sidney Govou set up Kallstrom shortly afterwards to control and fire home from the edge of the area. It was 2-0, and Stuttgart had little hope of even making the Uefa Cup.
But Lyon's stand-in keeper did not allow them to hang their heads too long. A minute or so after the second goal, former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger unleashed a trademark piledriver from distance straight at Vercoutre and he, predictably, made a fine mess of it, leaving Mario Gomez with the easiest of finishes and Stuttgart with the hope of springing an unlikely comeback.
As expected, Stuttgart then called open season on the Lyon goal, firing at will and repeatedly exposing a man who for a long time looked incapable of catching a ball. Lyon, for their part, enjoyed unlimited space whenever they looked to break away.
Superb goalAnd that they did: after 37 minutes, Ben Arfa made it 3-1 with a brilliant piece of skill. The young France international used a deft turn to leave his opponents standing before chipping it over Schafer into the top corner. A quite brilliant goal, no question, but, somewhere between the defence and goalkeeper, it should never have happened.
And so, as the sides went in for half-time, Stuttgart must surely have been resigned to elimination, looking completely out of their depth, even despite Vercoutre's every effort to keep it sporting. It certainly appeared that way at the start of the second half, when the visitors showed little inclination to make a contest of it.
Stuttgart comebackBut, on 56 minutes, Fernando Meira found Beck wide on the right, who slid it into the centre for Gomez to bag his second of the night from close range. Game on?
It certainly should have been, because referee Yuri Baskakov charitably handed Stuttgart a penalty a minute later when Fabio Santos fouled Gomez just outside the area. With Gomez off receiving treatment, stand-in penalty-taker Hitzlsperger stepped up and sidefooted it to Vercoutre's left, but the stand-in keeper made his first positive contribution of the evening when he palmed it wide.
That save served to take the sting out of the game, with little other than the odd long-distance strike worthy of note for much of it.
Lyon's major summer signing, Abdul Keita, a 70th-minute substitute, had what looked to be by far the best chance in the closing minutes when he was played through for a one-on-one, but he fired straight at Schafer.
But Juninho rubbed salt in the wounds for Stuttgart, tapping in from three yards in the third minute of added time as the sides played out a listless end spell.
|Lyon||Team Statistics||VfB Stuttgart|
|3||1st Half Goals||1|
|12||Shots on Target||7|
|4||Shots off Target||3|