Lyon 1 – Lens 0 : review

Cesar Delgado saves the day

On a frigid night at Stade Gerland, Lyon got the best of Lens in a game that will not have answered any questions for the Gones before they take on Real Madrid on Tuesday night, in what will unmistakably be the biggest game of the season for Lyon. Cesar Delgado was the only scorer for Lyon, as he capitalized on a luminous pass by Lisandro Lopez to put Lyon up top at the 77th minute, an advantage they held on to without a scare.

Neither team will be happy with their game, but Lyon can not complain as they get three precious points that allow them to stay in title waters and give them a much-needed confidence boost before the big match. Nonetheless, Lyon will not have provided any answers to the flurry of questions that every single game they play raises. Lyon played, by all accounts, a mediocre game, where movement and the necessary taking of risks were totally absent until Lisandro and Delgado were brought into the game by Claude Puel. As a Lyon supporter, I wonder whether this is the extent of Lyon’s abilities today or whether the team purposely walked to a victory to keep some energy for Tuesday? “The” game seemed to be present in everyone’s mind, and all the questions directed to Puel and the players before and after the game were focused on Tuesday’s game instead of the one that took place last night. Therefore Lyon needs to feel good about this victory, and as Jean-Alain Boumsong put it after the game : ” We don’t care about criticisms about our style of play… We needed to win and we did it.”.

Lens came to Lyon with the intent to build on their mid-week French Cup victory against Marseille and pick up a point that would make them progress in their battle against relegation. In order to do that, Jean-Guy Wallemme devised a strategy that would totally block Lyon’s flanks, where Cissokho and Michel Bastos were paired on the left, and Lovren (filling in for a sick Réveillère) and Govou on the right. This proved to be efficient, as Lens got the best opportunities in the first half with incisive counter-attacks that Lyon could only answer with a few poorly handled free-kicks and corner kicks. Nonetheless, nothing of notice was to be signaled, and Gerland booed off its players at half-time, along with the now-traditional chants of “Puel démission”.

After 15 more apathetic minutes in the second half, Claude Puel brought in Gerland’s favorites, forward Lisandro Lopez and attacking midfielder Cesar Delgado. That proved to be the game-changer : the pair of Argentinians brought more pace, flair and unpredictability to Lyon’s game, and they proved to be too much to handle for Lens’ defense. After the 77th minute goal, Lyon peacefully managed their advantage and easily took care of Lens’ few assaults on Hugo Lloris’ goal, who’ll have proved yesterday again that he is in top form, and is precious as ever in those tight games where Lyon’s defense is stretched and taken apart by quick counters.

All in all, it seems that Lyon didn’t play this match to the fullest and kept a bunch of energy for Tuesday. Lens looked tired from their great victory earlier in the week against Marseille and were never too threatening ; nonetheless, they have some quality players and will easily stay in Ligue 1. My man of the match, except for the obvious Delgado choice, goes to Bafétimbi Gomis. Lyon’s forward did a great job holding up the ball up top, thus allowing the team to move forward and set up attacks. By doing that, he also wears and tires opponent defenses, a good job Lisandro and Delgado benefited from upon entering. He also put lots of pressure on Lens’ first passes and reclaimed a number of balls from defenders and midfielders that could have potentially been more dangerous. On the other hand, Miralem Pjanic remains a mystery ; after a hot streak in the beginning of the season, the Bosnian playmaker seems to have fallen into a soccer coma where he can only pass the ball no farther than 5 feet and miss whatever else he attempts. Cesar Delgado seems to have taken over in the battle for the position, something Lyon supporters will not complain about.

Delgado is now a power starter for Lyon

Lyon is still 4th in the table, 5 points behind co-leaders Bordeaux (playing v. Saint-Etienne in a few hours) and Montpellier. Their next game is Tuesday against Madrid, and Saturday in Sochaux. Lens is currently 15th but with a seemingly safe 13-point buffer between them and 18th place Le Mans. They next play host to Monaco.

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