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Lyon crush Madrid's dreams

MADRID, March 11 – Real Madrid's massive summer spending was all in vain as their dream of playing the Champions League final at their Santiago Bernabeu stadium was shattered Wednesday by Lyon.Miralem Pjanic’s goal 15 minutes from time in the Spanish capital secured a 2-1 aggregate win and eliminated Real at the last 16 stage for the sixth successive season.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo had levelled the tie for Real in the sixth minute but Bosnia-Herzegovina teenager Pjanic, 19, scored the biggest goal of his life on 75 minutes to put Lyon in the quarter-finals.

After spending over 250 million euros in the summer, with Ronaldo and Kaka accounting for a large part of that, expectations were high.

But Real fell short at the first knockout stage once again and now only have the league to play for.

The defeat cranks up the pressure on coach Manuel Pellegrini, who was expected to win a 10th Champions League on home turf but Real must now watch the May 22 final at their stadium on the television.

For Lyon it was a huge result as they reached the quarter-finals after exiting the competition at the last 16 stage for the past three seasons.

Left back Marcelo and midfielder Xabi Alonso were both out through suspension so Pellegrini tinkered with his line-up bringing in Alvaro Arbeloa at left back.

Veteran Guti, 33, came in as a playmaker for Alonso with Esteban Granero starting probably his most important game in a Real shirt.

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Lyon started with a bank of five in midfield anchored by Jeremy Toulalan with Argentine Lisandro Lopez leading the line.

Guti had an impact after just six minutes feeding Ronaldo, who accelerated away from Lyon captain Cris before slotting a left-footed shot through the legs of Hugo Lloris giving Real a dream start.

Buoyed by the early goal Real went for the kill and should have scored again with Argentine Gonzalo Higuain the main culprit, missing a gilt-edged chance on 26 minutes.

Higuain rounded Lloris but with an empty net gaping he side-footed against the post.

Lloris denied Higuain minutes later as the Argentine latched onto a Kaka pass only to be foiled by a strong hand from the Lyon goalkeeper.

The French visitors were second best with a Toulalan long-range effort the best they could muster in the first half.

Pellegrini wanted more of the same in the second half while Lyon coach Claude Puel was clearly angry and wanted a response from his side.

Lyon started the second period well and Maxime Gonalons, one of two second half substitutes, had a half chance for the visitors early on.

An away goal would have meant Real had to score two more goals so it was tense for the hosts especially when Iker Casillas had to make a save from Lisandro’s potent longe range shot.

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Pellegrini brought off the fading Granero with Rafael van der Vaart, the hero in a 3-2 win over Sevilla at the weekend, coming on to offer more invention.

Kaka and van der Vaart had long range efforts but Lyon were more solid in the second half and threatening on the counter attack.

With a quarter of an hour left and extra-time beckoning some neat interplay allowed Pjanic to slot in meaning Real had to score two more goals.

An onslaught followed as Lyon defended for their lives but Real could not produce another comeback.

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