Blanc: French clubs closing the gap

BY foxsports • March 18, 2010

Bordeaux's Laurent Blanc feels the gap between Ligue 1 and Europe's top leagues is closing having reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

Bordeaux joined Lyon in reaching the last eight after beating Olympiacos 2-1 on Wednesday night to complete a 3-1 aggregate win.

Blanc still believes they are tournament underdogs but thinks having two French clubs in this stage of the competition is proof the domestic league is getting better.

He said: "We'll have to see how the French clubs go in the quarter-finals.

"It could well mean that French football has bridged some of the gap behind the big countries like Spain, England and even Italy.

"Among the eight clubs who are through to the quarters, there are six or even seven who would want to be drawn with Bordeaux. For me, there's one team I really want to avoid, that's Barcelona, who remain the most frightening side in the competition."

Yoann Gourcuff's superb free-kick gave Bordeaux an early lead against Olympiacos and the France midfielder saw another set-piece come back off the frame of the goal as visiting goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis struggled to cope with his delivery.

There looked no way back for Olympiacos when Matt Derbyshire was sent off in the 60th minute for two yellow cards in the space of seven minutes.

But substitute Kostas Mitroglou made an instant impression, crashing home a 64th-minute equaliser, and they received a second boost when the hosts' captain Alou Diara also saw red.

Bordeaux, though, sealed their progression in the 88th minute, Nikopolidis again caught as Marouane Chamakh headed in at the far post.

"It's a bad habit of ours to put ourselves under stress in matches," said defender Matthieu Chalme. "We knew it was going to be difficult and they confirmed that, they came here with a lot of desire.

"But we stepped up even though we were shaky for about 10 minutes when they scored. But altogether, being shaky for only 10 minutes in total is a good sign for us.

"We're in the quarters now, and we don't have a preference as to whom we're drawn against. We have to believe that we can keep going in this competition. We're very proud of our achievement but we're not going to stop here."

Olympiacos boss Bozidar Bandovic had few complaints with the result.

He said: "I want to congratulate our opponents. I think the second game was a really good one.

"We conceded very quickly, but afterwards, we restored the balance to the match.

"In the second half, I think we were superior. We scored and had a number of chances and I congratulate my players.

"If we had had a little bit more belief, perhaps it could have been different."

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