Just like the last 5 seasons, Olympique Lyonnais couldn’t manage a win in its last game of the calendar year. Faced with an unadventurous and well-grouped Monaco side , Gérard Houllier’s men conceded their second league draw at home for the season.
Largely dominated last year by Claude Puel’s Lille, Houllier’s men started the game tentatively, allowing the visitors to grab the first chances. Bolivar (11’) then Monsoreau (13’), couldn’t get their headers on target. The exit of Jan Koller after 10 minutes deprived Laurent Banide’s 11 of its all-important focal point up front. After that, Monaco withdrew, not creating any more chances until the 56th minute when a Squillaci back pass came close to getting past Grégory Coupet, almost hitting the right-hand post.
Meanwhile, OL proved itself willing but unable to get past Flavio Roma, who blocked a 25m shot from Cris (14’) as well as preventing Malouda as he attempted to head home from Ben Arfa’s centres (16’ and 47’). Tiago sent a header wide in the 27th minute and scuffed a shot in the 40th. Faced with a Monaco side content to just sit back, OL went all-out to break the double defensive curtain, with, as usual, Juninho as their go-to guy. The Brazilian’s acrobatic first shot fizzed just wide to the right (26’). His long-range free kick went out for a corner off the last bastion of the AS Monaco defence (33’) His shot from 20m went wide (35’).
The start of the second half hardly reflected the timidity of the first. Toulalan was off target (52’). Up front for his 200th Ligue 1 match, Sidney Govou set the game alight. He skewed his 49th minute shot just wide before missing a one-on-one with Roma (58’) and put Hatem Ben Arfa through only to see his shot fly off into the night sky above Gerland. Then, in the 61st minute, it seemed the man from Pay en Vela had put the Lyonnais ahead with a glorious header only to be ruled off side, denying him his second goal of the week.
From then on, the men from Monaco barely went past the half-way line, seemingly happy to share the points when visiting the champions and league leaders. In front of a compact red wall, Juninho tried his luck with an indirect free kick (71’) then Malouda (79’ and 88’) shot from distance. At the end of stoppage time, Kim Maelstrom’s shot was captured safely by Roma (90’).
Despite imposing their habitual end-of-match pressure, OL couldn’t make the difference in the end. This draw in no way stains the formidable record of the 5-time French champions. . And in recognising the team’s great achievements so far this year, well may Gerland resound with “Thank you OL!”. And into 2007!