Thanks to a 1-0 win over Auxerre, Olympique Lyonnais now have a 14-point lead over second place and are assured of being awarded the honarary title of Autumn Champion…
Yet, it had been Auxerre that had been showing they are a better team than their 14th place in the standings suggested. Their brilliant start was proof that a certain confidence has returned to the Auxerre changing-rooms. The symbol of this new-found confidence? For the first time this season, Jean Fernandez aligned a two-pronged attack comprising the Romanian Niculae and the Belgian Pieroni. After his great performance in Thursday’s UEFA Cup clash against Glasgow Rangers, Polish winger Jelen was quickly on show, but his first effort flew wide (2’). With nothing to lose visiting the Stade Gerland, the visitors threw everything at OL and were brilliant on the counterattack. Pieroni was dispossessed with a last ditch sliding tackle from Patrick Müller, replacing Toto Squillaci for the eveing (8’). Cheyrou saw his shot fly just wide of Grégory Coupet’s right-hand upright (9’). From corners, Kalabane (10’) and then Cheyrou (20’) sent scares through the stands. The Auxerre skipper then sent his wide free-kick straight into the gloves of the Lyon ‘keeper (22’).
After getting little reward for their bright opening, Pedretti and Co then struggled to maitain the rhythm after falling behind on the scoreboard. Up until that point, the hosts had largely failed to keep their guests in chack. Only a Malouda header (6’) and a long-range Kim Källström (15’) effort demontrated OL’s attacking capacities.
However, following the opening goal, OL steadily took control. After a long period of possesion, ��Nino’ Wiltord fired high over the goal (27’), Juninho smashed the crossbar with a long-rage effort (28’), John Carew failed to hit the target (33’) before Fabien Cool took two goes to control a shot deflected by Källström (37’). Malouda, just missed to the right (38’) before Anthony Réveillère stung Cool’s palms (40e) as OL finished the half on a high.
And there was more of the same in the second half. Only Jaurès got into a dangerous position, but he shot wide in a disappoitning second half for Auxerre (65’). Monopolising possession, the French champions gave their opponents no room to operate. Wiltord found Fabien Cool (58’), John Carew found the outside of the side-netting (59’) and Kalabane cleared off his own line to deny Källström (62’). From a corner, Alou Diarra headed wide (67’). To the chants of ‘Juninho la-la-la-la-la’, the Brazilian sent another 20-metre free-kick onto the crossbar (81’). Diarra screwed hi shot wide (86’) and Källström couldn’t add the finishing touch to a game his side largely dominated (89’).
Lille, Lens and Marseille were held to draws, while Saint-Etienne and Nancy were beaten, meaning the bi winner from Week 15 was Lyon who saw the next five teams in the standings all drop points. Thanks to the 1-0 win, Houllier’s men now have a 14-point lead over second place. With 40 points from 15 games, they have already racked up half the 80-point total normally synonymous with winning the league. However, having assured themselves of top spot at the winter break, OL are only half-way towards a record sixth title…
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