OL probably earned more than the usual three-points usually awarded for the victorious team of a Ligue 1 match…
First and foremost, Gérard Houllier’s side can be more than satisfied with the gap that now seperates them from second-placed Marseille after 11 games this season: OL are 11 points clear of OM and 12 ahead of Nancy in third. If a sixth successive league crown is still a long way from being assured, their massive lead certainly allows them a certain confidence for the rest of the competition.
Moments before kick-off, the Stade Gerland recognised a minute’s silence for Jérémy Guedj and Benjamin Rodet, who both recently, and too soon, passed away. “Gentleness and combativity… we miss you,” read the sign in the southern stand. “RIP JEREMY” read the tribute in the north. Such tragedy makes the football all seem relevant!
What followed was 90 minutes of football dominated, and deservedly won by the Olympians.
Obviously determined to avoid scrambling for last-minute goals, the champions started in attacking vein. Led by John Carew, goalles since April 23 2006, it took OL only minutes to unlock a Nancy defence reputed for his solidity. From a Florent Malouda cross, the Norwegian opened his right boot and scored his first goal for Lyon since the trip to Monaco at the end of last season (13’). But before Carew’s opener, Malouda had already seen his volley flirt with Sorin’s lefthand upright (3’), before Sébastien Squillaci’s header shaved the top of the crossbar (10’).
In the battle between the best attack and the best defence in the league, Houllier’s players already had the upperhand. And the rest of the first half confirmed OL’s dominance. After being superbly put clear by an unstoppble Malouda, Juninho’s control let him down (22’). Tiago then headed over from another inch-perfect Malouda cross (29’). And he was out of luck again when his chip came back off the post (45’). In stoppage time at the end of the first half, Sorin did well to hold another vicious Malouda centre (45+1’).
After the break, and against a side more comfortable defending that getting forward, Lyon took time to get going. Indeed, the first 15 minutes of the second period were almost void of any attacking action. Sauget’s long-range effort failed to test Coupet, but at least represented Nancy’s only shot on target for the entire match (46’).
The hour mark sounded the wake-up call for Les Lyonnais. 20 metres out from goal, Toulalan fired off a right-footed shot that found Sorin’s post again (63’). Malouda then saw his powerful effort fly just wide before he missed his one-on-one against the Nancy shot-stopper after a superb flying backheel pass from Tiago (73’). With Juninho playing up front following the injury to Karim Benzema, the Olympian’s settled for ensuring the 1-0 victory and avoiding a repeat of the scenario that saw them pegged back against Toulouse.
And while the final 15 minutes was symbolised by the superb tackles of Cris, the essential was acquired with a 13th consecutive win in all competitions and three points which sees the champions of the Stade Gerland sitting pretty after their visit from the East. With the win in the bag, OL can now turn calmly and determined towards Wednesday’s visit of Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.