The Lyonnais acquitted themselves in round 12 by bringing back all 3 points from the Parc des Princes, winning 3 goals to 2. Ben Arfa, twice, and Govou at the death, scored for OL. Thanks to this win Alain Perrin’s men now have a 4-point lead over nearest rivals Nancy.
The young Parisians held out for 90 minutes in Valenciennes. Against the 7-time champions of France, they managed to prolong their defensive record, taking it to 130 minutes, or until Hatem Ben Arfa tore the PSG defence open with 2 bursts of inspiration. Pushing up high, and forcing the OL attackers to play from deep, Paul Le Guen’s men held on for most of the first half before conceding two accurate and powerful goals from the newly-caped France international. The result: at half time, the Parc des Princes once again whistled at its own players, which was tough for the men from the capital, who given everything . Ngoi had troubled Vercoutre with a header (7’), Diané’s cross had found no takers (12’) and Mario Yepes saw his shot, as powerful as it was distant, fizz just wide, to the left of the OL keeper (19’).
For the last week, PSG had attracted all the attention, symbolising youth reaching maturity. People almost forgot that OL also has some rather young faces in its ranks. For some time now Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema have been making the exceptional look commonplace. After Bodmer’s header was caught in two attempts by Landreau (5’), Karim Benzema took off on the kind of run that is becoming customary, filled with touches with the outside of the boot and numerous step-overs. His shot was turned wide for a corner by Landreau (34’). And then Hatem Ben Arfa silenced the Parc with two goals in as many minutes. With the left then the right, the France international unleashed two missiles, first after Juninho’s cross was poorly cleared by Caera and then after Benzema’s skidding shot was punched clear by Landreau (41’ and 43’). The deed appeared to have been done; OL seemed to have secured its 4th away win of the season. But the Parisians, struggling to find form at home this season, seemed to due to turn things around, and in the 50th minute the task became much more complicated for the Olympiens. Springing the off side trap, Hatem Ben Arfa found himself one-on-one with Landreau but procrastinated and lost his opportunity (50’). On the resulting counter attack, Cleber Anderson, the last defender, fouled Diané (51’). His sending off rallied the Parc des Princes and the PSG players. Then from a corner poorly cleared by Vercoutre, Pauleta reduced the score line with a stabbing volley (61’).
Resuscitated by Pauleta’s strike, the Parisians began to believe again. Jérôme Rothen’s free kick flew over (70e) and then Vercoutre easily saved Mario Yepes’ header (76’). Towards the end of the match, the OL keeper also saved crucially from Pauleta (88’) and Diané (89’).
The final stages of the match were tense. Sidney Govou gave his side a bit more breathing space when he scored his 3rd league goal of the season, volleying home Clerc’s pinpoint cross from point blank range, but then Pauleta once again revived the hopes of the home side (91’). The Parc even believed that the Parisians could get back on level terms when Pauleta fired again, but the Portuguese striker’s shot grazed the post and went out (93’).
Vercoutre’s flying save from Jérôme Rothen’s last corner put an end to any Francilien hope of points from the match (93’). PSG still hasn’t won at home this season and remain in a worrying 15th place on the table. OL on the other hand doesn’t have such problems, forging ahead without looking back. In the end, the important thing is that the Lyonnais have found their rhythm. 25 points from a possible 27: it looks like more of a sprint than a marathon…