Lyon all but through

LYON are almost assured of playing in the group stage of this year’s Champions League after they recorded a thumping 5-1 win against Anderlecht in the first leg of their qualifying play-off last night.

Teenage midfielder Miralem Pjanic gave Lyon the lead after 10 minutes before Lisandro Lopez, signed from Porto last month, fired home a penalty with 15 minutes gone. Michel Bastos (39) and Bafetimbi Gomis (42) then struck in a four-minute period just before half-time to virtually end the tie as a contest. Matias Suarez gave Anderlecht some reason to cheer with a goal after 58 minutes, but Gomis ensured their joy were short-lived with his second of the game five minutes later.

Atletico Madrid hold the advantage in their tie against Panathinaikos after an entertaining 3-2 win in Athens.

Maxi Rodriguez gave Atletico a half-time lead which Dimitris Salpigidis cancelled out two minutes after the restart, before Diego Forlan put the Spaniards ahead again.

Sergio Aguero extended the advantage after 70 minutes but Sebastian Leto kept his side in the tie with a fierce strike four minutes later.

FC Zurich and Debreceni are both on course to reach the group stage for the first time after they recorded away wins against Ventspils and Levski Sofia respectively.

Zurich won 3-0 thanks to goals from Switzerland international Johan Vonlanthen (12), Silvan Aegerter (55) and Dusan Djuric (75).

Debreceni were indebted to a 76th-minute winner from Peter Czvitkovics for their 2-1 success against Levski in the Bulgarian capital.

Laszlo Bodnar had opened the scoring for the visitors after 12 minutes and while Levski’s French midfielder Cedric Bardon (51) equalised, Czvitkovics had the final say when he turned Tibor Dombi’s cross home.

Maccabi Haifa were also away winners, beating Austrian champions Salzburg 2-1. Substitute Shlomi Arbeitman’s scored the decisive goal six minutes from the end. Teenage striker Mohammad Ghadir (22) had put the Greens ahead before former Germany striker Alexander Zickler equalised with 57 minutes played.

Last night’s UEFA Champions League qualifying: FK Ventspils 0-3 FC Zurich, Levski Sofia 1-2 Debrecen, Lyon 5-1 Anderlecht, Panathinaikos 2-3 Atletico Madrid, SV Red Bull Salzburg 1-2 Maccabi Haifa.

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