Having closed the January transfer window as Europe’s highest-spending side, Lyon were keen to kick-start their season revival in a high-stakes Olympico clash against Marseille on Sunday night. Up against a short-handed and stuttering Marseille side – Gattuso’s men had drawn their previous three fixtures, there was an opportunity for Les Gones to grab a statement win.
Amine Harit’s effort straight from kick-off set the tone for a feverish first half – Anthony Lopes saved from being lobbed within seconds only by his crossbar. While the debutant Nemanja Matić was an assured presence in the Lyon midfield, the opening exchanges nevertheless saw both sides look to stamp their physical authority on the game.
The hosts’ counter-attacking prowess drew the best chances of the half, though, with Ernest Nuamah’s driving runs down the right proving particularly difficult for Marseille to handle. It was a cross from the Ghanaian which led to the goalmouth scramble that saw Lyon break the deadlock just before the break, with Lacazette reacting quickest to the loose ball while on the ground to score.
The second half following a mostly similar pattern, with Marseille scarcely putting a dent in the hosts’ defence until the final 20 minutes. Gattuso’s men would come closest to equalising through Aubameyang, who beat Lopes after playing a one-two with Moumbagna, only for Maitland-Niles to rush in behind to clear the shot off the line.
Although they will have hoped to wrap up the result earlier on – Nuamah notably squandered a one-on-one late in the match – tonight’s return to winning ways is a sign that Pierre Sage has the team on the right track. For his Italian counterpart, though, the outlook is decidedly different after three winless games and a six-point deficit on the Champions League spots.
While this season is effectively a write-off for Lyon, there are early signs of a spirited surge up the table – with Saïd Benrahma and Orel Mangala still to join the fold. The key, in any case, will be to build up some momentum to take into next year.
Lyon player ratings
Anthony Lopes, 6
Clinton Mata, 6
Duje Ćaleta-Car, 5
Jake O’Brien, 6
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 7
Maxence Caqueret, 5
Nemanja Matić, 7 – The Serbian veteran was a class above everyone else on the pitch – an assured, metronomic performance that provided the hosts with the platform from which to attack Marseille on the break, as well as freeing up Maxence Caqueret alongside him. Replaced by Paul Akouokou ten minutes from time.
Nicolás Tagliafico, 5
Ernest Nuamah, 7
Alexandre Lacazette, 7 – Linked up well with Gift Orban on the latter’s first start since joining, and showed impressive awareness to fire in a loose ball while on the ground for the opening goal – his 10th of the campaign.
Gift Orban, 6 – The Nigerian had fewer clear-cut chances to get a shot away than Lacazette and Orban, but he was very much in tune with his two attacking partners as they all combined for an impressive counter-attacking display. Replaced with 20 minutes to go by another new signing in Malick Fofana.
Marseille player ratings
Pau López, 5
Bamo Meïté, 4 – Beaten for Lacazette’s opener, but the young defender did manage an impressive recovery early on in the second-half to deny the Lyon captain. Replaced by new signing Faris Moumbagna on the hour mark.
Leonardo Balerdi, 4
Samuel Gigot, 5
Quentin Merlin, 4 – A tough debut for the full-back, who struggled to contain Ernest Nuamah’s runs down the wing. He did look to provide an attacking outlet, but was rarely effective.
Azzedine Ounahi, 5
Jean Onana, 4
Amine Harit, 5 – The Moroccan nearly opened the scoring straight from kick-off with an ambitious effort that nearly caugh Lopes off-guard. He again tested Lopes
Iliman Ndiaye, 4
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 3 – A couple of promising chances – notably his one-two with Moumbagna to break into the box – but very little involvement otherwise.
Luis Henrique, 5