Lyon Continue Late Surge Towards European Places After Win over Bordeaux

Owen Morgan@@OwenHMorganContributor IMarch 10, 2014

Lyon's Jimmy Briand, background centre,  celebrates with Alexandre Lacazette, back, after they scored a goal against Nantes during their French League One soccer match in Lyon, central France, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

As late comebacks go, Olympique Lyonnais' stunning victory over Bordeaux this weekend was up there with the very best.

It also served as a microcosm of their entire Ligue 1 campaign to date; a terrible start, followed by a dramatic late turnaround. 

Despite a third-placed finish in the 2012/13 table, Remi Garde's side began the current season in abject form. They crashed out of the Champions League in a qualifying play-off, defeated by Real Sociedad.

Their early Ligue 1 form was equally dismal, and they slid unconvincingly to the lower mid-table after losses against Evian, Ajaccio and, most damningly, Montpellier, who thrashed them 5-1 in early October. 

Lyon began their match against Bordeaux this weekend as sluggishly as they did their season. Henri Saivet rose unmarked at the far post to head Les Girondins into an eighth-minute lead.

Garde is a young, creative coach, but his decision to play a three-man defence backfired. Les Gones were exposed on the flanks, and Bordeaux should have been further ahead before Garde reverted to a more familiar back four.

Although the second half was a much more even contest, Bordeaux looked set to win, but a devastating injury-time double salvo saw Lyon steal all three points. Henri Bedimo poked home an equaliser after two added minutes before Corentin Tolisso won the match in the 95th minute with his first-ever senior goal. 

Lyon's remarkable reversal of fortunes reflects their form overall this season. Initially lacking in attacking creativity and guilty of tactical naivety, Garde's men are now one of the form sides in Ligue 1 and are still an outside bet for the third Champions League spot.

Les Gones' revival owes much to Garde's improved tactical approach, in combination with some outstanding performers over recent weeks, particularly young French forward Alexandre Lacazette.

Tactically, Garde moved to favour a 4-4-2 diamond, allowing Lacazette to operate in the space in between the two strikers. Under this system, the 22-year-old has excelled, netting 18 goals in total this season, 13 of them coming in Ligue 1.

His performances have deservedly attracted attention from some of the biggest clubs in European football, and his stock will rise even higher if he can fire Lyon to a Champions League place.

Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press/Associated Press

Lyon are still some way off finishing in the top three, but they have the crucial force of momentum which can so often propel sides up the table. Garde's men have lost just once in their last 13 league games and, as was the case against Bordeaux, have developed a resilient ability to win when not playing well.

In addition, the sides around Lyon are dropping points. Fourth-placed Saint-Etienne, Lyon's bitter rivals, are without a win in their last eight Ligue 1 matches.

Similarly, Marseille are in turmoil, after going down to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at home to lowly Nice. Lille are comfortable in third as things stand, but Lyon have by far the easier run-in. 

Lille are in control, but Lyon cannot be ruled out. Garde's men have been impressive in recent weeks, and the dramatic denouement against Bordeaux will instill in them further belief they can rise higher than fifth in the table.

Lyon are still in the Europa League and have a Coupe de la Ligue final to look forward to. A season that began under a dark cloud could yet have a bright finish.


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