Follow the Ball – Game 16: Lorient vs Lyon

This is already’s Lyon best run of form since September when they won two and drew three games in a run of five. Since putting in what I’ve now come to understand as their best performance of the season against Paris Saint-Germain a few weeks ago, they have been pretty good. They are yet to better that Paris victory but in truth, they haven’t needed to.

As I hit 16 games for the year, I’ve glanced ahead at Lyon’s fixtures and I’m not completely sure there is a game during April that should worry them. They could very well be Follow the Ball champions until the final weekend of the season.

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

Game 16: Lorient vs Lyon
Ligue 1, Sunday 3rd April 2016, Stade du Moustoir

Perhaps I have a little too much confidence in watching Lyon over the last few weeks but there wasn’t a moment during this game that I even thought about using Google – I’m told other search engines do exist – to check out Lorient’s upcoming fixtures. The three points may have been in danger, and the all-important goals didn’t come up until the final 10 minutes but I never worried that Lorient would end up as the new Follow the Ball champions.

Lorient did play well but the whole game seemed to happen a little within Lyon’s comfort zone; and they were deserving winners once they eventually put the game to bed with goals in the 80th and 84th minutes.

The opening goal of the game should be a worry for Lyon as they were ripped open with a single pass. It should have been made much harder but with minimal pressing in midfield and a very high defensive line, a single pass to pick out Maxime Barthelme’s run left Anthony Lopes fronting up against two Lorient forwards. Barthelme delayed his pass to draw Lopes away from goal and then squared the ball for Majeed Waris to roll it in.

Unfortunately for Lorient they weren’t able to retain that lead until half-time and allow a few doubts to creep into the mind of the Lyon squad. Instead, the visitors struck back with their next attempt on goal – Alexandre Lacazette finishing smartly in the 44th minute after a Lorient defender failed to clear a cross. Lacazette looked aware he had time and space in the box, and allowed the ball to drop nicely for him rather than snatching at an awkward chance.

From there, it became a battle between Lyon trying to find a winning goal and Lorient attempting to hang for a draw. Both teams had chances to score the third goal of the game – though the better of the opportunities were Lyon’s.

Les Gones’ front three have been one of the highlights of the last few matches but it has started to look clear that Maxwel Cornet needs a break. He’s still only a teenager and hasn’t been his brilliant self in the last couple of games – which made the return of Mathieu Valbuena to the squad all the more important. Valbuena did provide the assist for Lyon’s second goal – though it was a simple pass into the area that Rachid Ghezzal drove home.

Ghezzal then set-up Lacazette’s second goal of the game – and his sixth in his last four – to rubber stamp the victory. It was another smart finish from the striker – quick feet saw him round the keeper and then he retained enough balance to fire the ball into the top of the goal.

Things look good for Lyon right now. With Valbuena back in contention and Fekir taking part in training (and possibly due to play soon) they are getting extra bodies back at a perfect time. The recent run has been sparked by a front three picked through necessity and they should benefit from some rotation in the final few games of the season – though not too much rotation that it stunts their progress.

The Result: Lorient 1-3 Lyon

What’s next? Montpellier vs Lyon in Ligue 1

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