With the Ligue 1 about to take a week off for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, the least one can say is that Les Lyonnais have signed off for the mini-break in style.
Demonstrating once again the depth and quality of his squad, Houllier decided to ring the changes to his starting XI with no less than six changes to the team that took on Steaua Bucharest. Berthod, Réveillère, Diarra, Källström, Govou and Benzema came in to start this match which began in driving rain.
Despite the formidable impression radiated by Lyon’s incredible start to the season, the numbers also revealed that Lyon have won their last three matches at the Stade Bonal and six of the last eight. Yet Karim Benzema and Co began warily , knowing that this trip east had little in common with last season’s 4-0 display. “They are a very technical team and with a bit of confidence, they can be dangerous,” revealed Alou Diarra, in the starting line-up for the second time this season. And it was the hosts that were on view early. N’Dow’s free-kick stung the palms of Grégory Coupet (5’). Quercia didn’t get any closer as his shot from wide flew high (19’).
For Lyon, Florent Malouda took upon himself to lead the French champions into the game, but neither his shot at the top of the box, blocked by Brechet (20’), nor his cross for Kim Källström (23’) saw Lyon able to unlock the leakiest defence in the league. For this match against his former teammates, Jérémy Bréchet had hearts in mouths with his back pass which forced his own ‘keeper into a desperate save (30’). From a free-kick, Juninho was unable to hit the target (34’).
Controlling the game, the Olympians were unable to unduly worry Teddy Richert and were close to conceding a goal at the other end just before the break, but Karim Ziani, ideally placed, screwed his shot wide (44’).
Trying to keep their visitors’ head under water, Sochaux began the second half in enterprising fashion. Birsa wasted a presentable chance (52’) and Coupet was called into action again to deny Jérôme Leroy’s cross-cum-shot (55’).
It took the Olympians 23 minutes to create their first chance of the second half. Teddy Richert struggled to deal with a Juninho indirect free-kick (68’) before Berthod and Fred got their wires crossed on the edge of the six-yard box after good work down the left from the Lyon skipper (73’).
Desperate to keep looking for the win into the final 15 minutes, Houllier’s side laid siege to the Sochaux goal. An attacking move to would end by paying off.
Sylvain Wiltord, who had come on just moments earlier for Källström, finally beat Richert with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area (78’). It was his third goal in two away matches against Sochaux in a row!
Obviously inspired by the Stade Bonal, “Nino” released Tiago down the right and the Portugal midfielder’s cross picked out Juninho, but his acrobatic effort only found Richert’s gloves (86’). Juni from another free-kick (92’) and Sène against his own woodwork (93’) could have easily extended Lyon’s lead. But the win is the main thing and the Lyon players would certainly settle for this precious solitary goal victory.
The only negative point for the evening: Fred will be suspended for the derby after picking up a yellow card in the final stages of the match (88’). And the other concerned Sidney Govou, who left the field in the 79th minute. The Lyon winger suffering from an injured ankle and knee.
The victory also sees the Olympians set a new record after winning a sixth match in September, and they now have 22 points from a possible 24 in the league and pile the pressure on Marseille who host Toulouse on Sunday. OL are flying! At least the week off will give their opponents a chance to catch their breath… temporarily at least.