Claude Puel was revelling in what he described as a “great achievement” as Lyon knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League.
Miralem Pjanic’s late goal took the French side into the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Real Madrid, who had led through a first-half Cristiano Ronaldo strike. Puel, who lost Jean-Alain Boumsong and Jean II Makoun through injury, took credit for a half-time reshuffle.
“It’s a great achievement, especially considering how the game started,” he said. “We escaped a disaster in the first half. The early goal lifted Madrid’s confidence and put us on the back foot. That meant the first half was tough, and half-time was too. Boumsong and Makoun had to be substituted with groin injuries, and Lisandro also had a problem but he was able to last the whole game. The substitutes were key, they did a fine job. We changed the system and totally reshuffled the team. Mire [Pjanić] moved up to support Lisandro and that made us more fluid. On top of that, he scored the goal.
“The first leg was good and we did the same job in the second leg. We were in trouble as they played quickly from deep, and had a bit of luck when they hit the post. We changed the system in the second half and played ten metres higher as Madrid were tiring having produced lots of effort before the break.
“We were more fluid, there was more quality in our game. We could play wider and made them run as they enjoy having the ball at their feet. When you look at the second half, we deserved to go through. This squad is writing its own story. We must now go on.”
Madrid coach, Manuel Pellegrini, took full responsibility for a defeat that may ultimately cost him his job.
“The first responsibility is mine, but we have to overcome this blow and keep fighting for the Liga title,” he said. “It is a very big setback. We played well in the first half but had two chances and failed to convert them. After the break the team were growing anxious until the Lyon goal came.
“It was a dream for all of us to play the final at the Bernabéu. The players are hurt by a painful elimination, but we have to lift our mood and keep working. That’s all I can do; keep working. It’s a big blow but we must look ahead.
“We had a great first half and could have scored a second. That would have opened Lyon’s defence and made things easier. In the second half we tried more individual actions but that was because we were concerned about it only being 1-0, and then we began to feel the effort of the first half. The chances we missed in the first half are really to blame. It’s a very strong setback suffered by Madrid for the sixth consecutive season but we have to keep fighting.”