It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Valenciennes: the Lyon monster was beaten for the first time this season, last weekend at Rennes and on Friday it was out for revenge..
Tiago didn’t mix his words this week: “Believe us, we don’t won’t to lose again…” “We have taken what we needed to from that match,”added Gérard Houllier on the eve of tonight’s match. Just a week after the landmark defeat, Les Gones were not still dwelling on the set back.
As for Valenciennes, they arrived in Lyon with a squad decimated by injuries and suspensions. Even if Kombuaré and his players felt they had ‘nothing to lose’ they were soon forced to admit that with a new-look defence and an attack that has hit lean times, just three points from the relegation zone, it was not the best time to be taking on the best attack in the country.
As for the game, Coupet had little to do throughout the opening 45 minutes. Savidan, alone up front, was full of running, chasing down long balls… but all in vain. Cris, revved up after a week out let the visiting attacker knew he was well and truly back for this match (27’). At the other end of the field, the northern team was sitting back in front of Penneteau, battered by wave after wave of Lyon attack: Malouda and Benzema were just a little too short on Sid’s cross (4’), Govou’s rocket flew just over the top (12’), the control and shot from Nino Wiltord, just on to replace Benzema shaved the upright (22’)… The injury to Karim (15’), called up this week to the France senior team, marked a first half where clear-cut chances were few and far between.
Govou then joined Benzema in the treatment room shortly after the restart. The captain’s armband passed over to Wiltord while young striker Loïc Rémy was introduced on the right side of the attack to try and unlock the Valenciennes backline.
Having come to defend, and sitting with ten players behind the ball, the Blues were forced into fouling on the edge of their own area, a scenario which only highlighted the absence of Juninho, suspended.
And totally against the run of play, Savidan launched a stinging counterattack, getting the better of both Cris and Squillaci before sliding the ball passed Coupet (75’, 0-1). Just 15 minutes from the end, the Gerland faithful was suddenly fearing the worse. Rémy, from 20 metres out (68’) and Nino, with a bicycle kick on the penalty spot (72’) would have been left rueing their lack of accuracy had the OL defenders not stepped up to take control of proceedings. Cris had the Gerland singing with a header just moments before Squillaci had the 39,833 supporters back on their feet with a volley (84’ and 86’, 2-1). Two goals in as many minutes saw Lyon’s central defensive pairing single-handedly turn the game around.
For nearly ten minutes, Kombouaré thought he’d pulled off the perfect hit-and-run job on the champions, but OL once again showed the ability to bring a result back from an apparently hopeless situation…