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Merengues Surge Past Lyon to Seal Place in Quarterfinals!

Real Madrid put Lyon to the sword at the Bernabéu tonight, easing past the French team 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.  Mourinho made two key tactical shifts from the first leg, playing the marauding Marcelo instead of the more conservative Arbeloa at left back and the mercurial Benzema instead of Adebayor to lead the line.

One of the reasons Madrid had trouble breaking down Lyon in the first leg was Mourinho's tactical miscue in playing Arbeloa instead of Marcelo.  No doubt the reasoning was that the Spaniard offers more defensive security than the marauding Brazilian, but two issues with this emerged.

First, playing a more defensive player on that flank meant Arbeloa didn't attack as much down the wing, both failing to pin the opposition fullback/winger by forcing them to come deep to defend and inviting pressure and attacks down that side, as more space was available in front of the deep-lying fullback.  Second, playing an inverted winger (that is, a wing player who starts on the opposite side from his natural foot, such as Arjen Robben, a left-footer who plays on the right, or Ronaldo, a right-footer who plays on the left) with a similarly 'inverted' fullback means that both players have the tendency to cut inside rather than running at defenses to put in the cross.  Thus, Ronaldo had no one on the overlap to provide an outlet for his passing and to draw defenders off of him and often found himself stymied by two or three defenders.

At the Bernabéu, Mourinho made no such mistake, and his choices paid off in the key role Marcelo played in the match.  The match started off relatively even, with Madrid having the lion's share of the possession but failing to make chances against a resolute Lyon side.  Lyon played a deep defensive line and looked to play on the counter, so Madrid's passing failed to draw out defenders, while the Merengues were unwilling to commit too many men forward as it might allow Lyon the chance to counterattack incisively.  As the first half went on, Real's dominance began to fade as Lyon created some decent chances from breaks down the wings, earning a few corners and putting some crosses into the box.  Spells of Lyon possession also led to some nervous defending from the Whites, leading to yellow cards for Carvalho, Marcelo and Pepe.

Madrid had to conjure up something special to break the deadlock.  In the 37th minute, Ronaldo and Marcelo exchanged passes on the edge of the box before the Brazilian dribbled through with a superb piece of individual skill before finishing handily past the excellent Lloris.

In the second half, Lyon pushed forward desperately, looking for a goal.  Puel brought on Gomis for Briand during the interval, bringing Lisandro Lopez across to the left to keep Ramos in check.  Madrid, however, were happy to sit back and frolic in the open spaces left behind by Lyon on the break.  In the 66th minute, Benzema displayed the predatory instinct that has helped him to a remarkable scoring streak in the last few games by taking advantage of confusion between Cris and Lovren on a longball to spring free and put the ball through the legs of the onrushing Lloris.  Ten minutes later, di Maria chipped a third over Lloris after a slick counter and a clever headed pass by Ozil.  Mourinho was happy to take the opportunity to bring off Ronaldo, di Maria and Benzema and bring on Lass, Granero and Adebayor to see the tie out.  A broken Lyon team made no attempt to score a consolation goal, happy to keep Madrid from turning the tie into a rout.

Madrid saw themselves past their bogie team in Lyon and their curse of the last 16, where the Whites have failed for the past six years.  Here are the last 8:

Real Madrid
Shakhtar Donetsk
Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur

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