Dutch winger Arjen Robben’s strike sealed Bayern Munich’s 1-0 victory over Lyon on Wednesday to give the German giants an advantage for the second-leg of the Champions League semifinal.
The first-half dismissal of Bayern’s Franck Ribery for a dangerous challenge was cancelled out by Lyon’s France defender Jeremy Toulalan also getting sent off just after the break for a second yellow card before Robben’s winning goal.
Since joining Bayern from Real Madrid in August 2009, Robben has now scored 20 goals in all competitions, but none so important as his 69th-minute strike which bounced off the back of team-mate Thomas Mueller and into the net.
“It was tremendously important that we kept our composure, even with ten men,” said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm with Mark van Bommel suspended.
“We played well and held the ball well.
“It will be hard to comfort Franck after his red card, he is an excellent footballer who always wants to win.
“It is bitter for us that he is suspended for the second-leg.”
All the pre-match hype was around Ribery, who was questioned by French police at the weekend after being involved in the under-age call-girl scandal which has rocked the French football team.
Ribery kept a low profile going into the game, but both he and Toulalan will now miss the second-leg next week back in Lyon.
Having had his chances to score, Ribery was shown a straight red by referee Roberto Rosetti on 37 minutes for a dangerous foul on Lyon’s striker Lisandro Lopez as he body-checked the Argentinian while fighting for the ball.
Bayern’s fans were braying for blood after Rosetti flashed his red card, especially as Lopez was quickly on his feet after initially writhing in agony.
The game’s tempo dropped as Bayern Louis van Gaal reorganised his team into a more offensive formation as it stayed 0-0 at the break.
At the interval, Bayern’s defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk came on for striker Ivica Olic, but Lyon were soon also reduced to ten men when France defender Toulalan seemed to let the occasion get to him.
Having carelessly left his trailing leg to trip Robben, he sent the Dutchman tumbling to the turf to earn himself a yellow card on 51 minutes.
Then just three minutes later, he kicked away Bastian Schweinsteiger’s leg when challenging for a ball and Rosetti was reaching for his red card before Schweinsteiger landed on the pitch on 54 minutes.
Lyon coach Claude Puel immediately brought on Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun for Miralem Pjanic to bring on fresh legs, while van Gaal brought in Germany striker Mario Gomez for midfielder Danijel Pranjic on 63 minutes.
Gomez, who has struggled for confidence since his transfer from Stuttgart more than 18 months ago, missed a clear header created by Robben, but the pressure finally told for Bayern.
Robben launched his shot from well outside the penalty area on 69 minutes and the ball deflected off the back of Mueller to beat Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Despite the French side’s efforts, Bayern stayed in control and will take a slender advantage to Lyon for the second-leg on April 27.
Puel insisted that the tie was far from over “though it’s a shame we didn’t manage to hang on to our numerical superiority to impose our game a little more and get a better grip on things.
“But it’s all to play for in the return.” — AFP