Not quite a feast of football in tasty Lyon

February 23, 2011

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/It was my first trip to Lyon to see Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid and though I knew what to expect on the field given the Spanish side’s troubles here in the past, I had no idea what the city or its famed cuisine would be like.

In the end, the food in one of France’s gastronomic centres probably outshone the fare on the pitch although it was a decent game with both sides fighting for every ball in the cold and the rain.

Karim Benzema’s goal against his former club 43 seconds after coming on as a substitute added a bit of spice and Bafetimbi Gomis’s 83rd minute equaliser for Lyon means the last 16 second leg at the Bernabeu on March 16 is nicely simmering.

But nothing could quite compare to the culinary delights of Lyon’s bistrots and brasseries. Pistachioed sausages, calf’s head, a floating island of meringue on custard with pink pralines and the simply majestic “Andouillette Maison Ravier avec Sauce Moutarde a L’Ancienne” (which OK is effectively tripe.)

The city itself was probably a 1-1 draw between the beautiful old town, with narrow streets and quaint squares, and the slightly bizarre outer ring with garish modern architecture and a lack of town planning. (Note to self for next time. When booking what appears to be the closest hotel to the stadium, check there is actually a bridge nearby to cross the river.)

The Stade de Gerland was also not what I expected for the home of one of France’s powerhouses. It was slightly rundown but with an intriguing Roman feel with columns outside and big stone steps leading up to the stands.

It is easy to forget that Olympique Lyon are a provincial club who had never won a French league title before sealing seven in a row from 2002.

They had to build a big tent outside to accommodate all the journalists but at least that meant the coaches’ news conference and player mixed zone were in the same space so I could listen to Jose Mourinho moaning about the referee while earwigging Benzema trying to be nice to both the French and Spanish hacks.

Real were slightly happier having scored their first goal in three visits to Lyon and with a home leg to come. But at least if the French side don’t continue their jinx over the Spaniards at the Bernabeu, they’ll have some great grub to come back home to.

PHOTO: Olympique Lyon’s Jimmy Briand challenges Karim Benzema (R) of Real Madrid during their Champions League soccer match at Gerland stadium in Lyon February 22, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Pratta.

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