Follow the Ball – Game 15: Lyon vs Nantes

After two impressive wins, it was always going to be tough for Lyon to keep the winning run going. It’s not something they have been good at so far this season as shown by their struggles in the league, but they were good enough for a deserved point. The alternative could have been Marseille versus Rennes which may have been fun, but instead we’re back to the Parc Olympique Lyonnais (sadly not literally) for the visit of Nantes.

Game 14: Stade Rennais 2-2 Lyon (c)
Ligue 1, Sunday 13th March 2016, Roazhon Park

Game 15: Lyon vs Nantes
Ligue 1, Saturday 19th March 2016, Parc Olympique Lyonnais

Given that Nantes offered something short of nothing going forward in the first half, it was pretty clear early on that their game plan revolved around keeping things tight and probably nicking a goal. Les Canaris started the game just two points behind Lyon thanks to a solid recent run – one defeat in six – but didn’t play like rivals of OL.

As the heatmap of both team’s first half touches shows below – home team on the left, both teams attacking “upwards” – the majority of Nantes’ first-half actions came within their own terriority as they tried to restrict Lyon rather than ask questions of their own. It worked.

It was a first half of few chances – though Lyon may have scored from two of the three efforts they did have. Rachid Ghezzal’s deflected shot was well-saved and after good work by Maxwel Cornet (something I seem to be saying every week), Corentin Tolisso should have at least got his shot on target. Nantes were almost certainly the happier team as they both headed for the changing rooms.

The second half was more exciting and played into Lyon’s hands. As Nantes pushed out looking for an unlikely winner, they offered more attacking space to the home team’s front three.

The opening goal eventually came and it was all that Lyon deserved. They refused to give in to a disciplined defence and scored a scrappy – but totally deserved – goal. Possession was won high up the pitch by Maxime Gonalons and with the defence scrambling to find their shape, Rachid Ghezzal danced into the box. His shot was blocked but popped up underneath Gaetan Perrin who headed in his first goal for the club (I think) with his first touch of the game (I think). 11 minutes later Alexandre Lacazette wrapped up all three points with a penalty in injury time.

Nantes got what they deserved for an entirely negative early game plan, and Lyon continues to edge towards a place in the top three – maybe even top two. All of a sudden their clash with Nice – currently third – in a month’s time becomes very important to both teams as they both try to apply pressure on Monaco.

Once again I was impressed by Lyon’s front three. The players due back from injury in the coming weeks are going to find it hard to get Cornet, Ghezzal and/or Lacazette out of the team (it won’t be Lacazette).

The Result: Lyon 2-0 Nantes

What’s next? Lorient vs Lyon in Ligue 1

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