Providing an intense interlude to this incredible start to the season in which OL have swept all before them… the derby is clearly a match like no other.
The first tackles confirmed the intensity inherent in such a much-awaited clash. Toulalan (3’) then Cris (6’, 20’, 38’ and 43’) reminded their opposite numbers that tonight was a derbymatch if ever they needed reminding. On the back foot from the outset, Saint-Etienne had real trouble worrying Rémy Vercoutre. During the opening stages, dominated by the champions, Grégory Coupet’s understudy had little opportunity to show his worth. It was afr cry from Jérémie Janot at the other end.
Bolstered by the supply lineof Jérémy Toulalan in the middle of the park, Houllier’s side mulitplied their atacks. From the edge of the area, Tiago fired the first shot in anger, dealt with by Janot (7’). Clearly hyper-motivated on his right wing, Sidney Govou quickly reassured the Gerlan faithful as to the health of his ankle. Twice going close to connecting with Nino Wiltord’s openings (10’ and 25’), the Lyon legend was in stirling form while Toulalan had the fans eating out of his hand with each tackle and interception. Poorly rewarded, the new France international saw his thinderous drive fly just left of the mark (11’).
After another magical Govou run, Juninho saw his effort kiss the right-hand upright of the Saint-Etienne goal (16’). Benzema failed to go one better when Janot held his long-range effort (22’) as the two teams headed to the break locked at 0-0.
The second half began as the first with Tiago firing first wide, and then high from the edge of the box. (46’ and 48’). Accuracy was proving illusive as Benzema missed again (62’). Earlier, Rémy Vercoutre had kept his side in the game with save, one on one against Guarin (47’).
The game movedup another gear on the hour mark. From a free-kick, Juninho drew a fine save from Janot. But only minutes later the man from Vlenciennes could do nothing as Tiago finally gave the hosts the lead. Profiting from a Juninho throughball the Portugal midfielder chipped his ball perfectly to score his fifth goal of the season (67’).
The five minutes following a goal are often the most dangerous for a team and it only took 60 seconds for Les Verts to equaliser as Hautcoeur’s shot, deflected by Eric Abidal, bent into Vercoutre’s top corner (68’).
The efforts from Malouda and Cris only found green feet (74’ and 75’) while Juninho’s header found Janot (79’).
No more luck for the Olympin No.8 from the penalty spot after a foul from Diatta, the last defender on Malouda (83’). Janot again denied the Brazilian. But it was only a minor set-back. After a great run down the left from Malouda, Juni finally beat Janot from right in front. (88’).
It was a breathtaking finish to the match, orchestrated by their midfield maestro and Gerland couldn’t have hoped for a better way to sign off. The magic of the derby had struck again. The Olympians won the 90 derby in history and confirmed their place at the top of the standings in the process. If this derby was the first in a new run which traels to Kiev, Marseille, Paris and Nancy, lets hope that there’s more of the same in stall. At any rate, it was the perfect start.