OL came unstuck at the Stade de la Route de Lorient. Les Lyonnais, undefeated since the start of the season lost 1-0. After 14 consecutive wins, including nine in the league, and despite a hatful of chances, Lyon were unable to breakdown a well-organised defence…
To cover the missing defender, Gérard Houllier chose to move Eric Abidal into the centre of the defence alongside Toto Squillaci for a new-look central pairing.
In midfield, the Lyon coach went with Kim Källström, allowing the Swede to receive a touching ovation from his old fans.
Leaving too much initiative to their opponents in the opening exchanges, Lyon struggled early. The locals slightly dominated the opening minutes with an Olivier Sorlin free-kick punched clear by Grégory Coupet (3’). And the Stade de la Route de Lorient exploded into joy when Mbia, from a Monterrubio corner, headed passed the OL ‘keeper (13’). Not happy with just one goal, the Cameroonian tried his luck from distance without hitting the target (17’ and 20’).
Attacking in an effort to equalise before the break, Lyon left spaces at the back and Sorlin found the side-netting at the end of another counter attack (36’) while Utaka headed over from another near-post header (45’).
At the end of the first half, with the visitors dominating, Juninho saw his free-kick kiss the top of Pouplin’s crossbar (40’).
Tailing by a solitary goal at the break, Lyon came out for the restart with the firm intention of levelling the match. Desperate to turn the match around, as they had already done against Paris-SG, Nantes and Nice, Gérard Houllier’s side was quickly onto the front foot. Rennes ‘keeper Pouplin turned a Sylvain Wiltord shot behind for a corner (46’) before comfortably denying Jérémy Toulalan (48e) and catching Nino Wiltord’s effort at the second attempt (49’).
Les Lyonnais dominated the second period and only Sorlin, at the end of another counter attack offered the chance of extending the hosts’ lead (52’).
At the end a brilliant Jérémy Berthod balancing act, the left-back fired over (65’). All alone at the front-post, Wiltord failed to put away an intelligent Källström cut back (70’). Benzema also went close, only to see his effort saved by the feet of Pouplin (75’).
The challenge got that much harder in the 77th minute when the referee, Mr. Thual, sent off Juninho for an elbow on Didot (78’). In the dying stages Källström had the chance to spare his side’s blushes but against found Pouplin in his path (80’).
"That’s football. If you want to transform each and every one of your chances, then don’t play football," had predicted Gérard Houllier on Friday. Saturday was cruel proof of the trainer’s words: dominating doesn’t necessarily wean winning.
Of course, Lyon hasn’t lost everything in Rennes. They have just, for the first time this season, experienced the bitter taste of defeat, but remain, whatever happens in Sunday’s games, well ahead at the top of the standings. Far from being a earth-shattering disaster, this match merely serves to remind all that a long season is composed of highs and lows. Lyon are not unbeatable, despite what the recent headlines would have you believe. Now the team must quickly bounce back to winning ways.