By Paul Douglas Grant
Lyon has not this season been the Lyon of past seasons. The supporters are calling for manager Claude Puel’s head while Jean Pierre Aulas equivocates. And yet some movement has been perceived in the club’s latest matches, whether in the Ligue 1 or Champions League matches. And last night’s victory over Lille (3-1) had supporters and probably Puel feeling like perhaps the dark days were behind us. While Yohann Gourcuff son of Lorient trainer Christina Gourcuff and the butt of many World Cup attacks…by the French team itself, finally scored his first goal for the club since his transfer from Bordeaux this season (his last goal had been with the Girondins in March against… Lille).
But while Gourcuff was feeling some relief at finally giving reason to the fans to believe that he was worth the dough, it was really the magnificent opening and closing of this game with the bookended goals by the lion of Lyon Lisandro Lopez, nicknamed Licha. In the closing of the second minute of the match Bastos found Lisandro (photo) poised to score and made a decisive pass that resulted in a determined and unforced goal, the kind of gratifying goal a band of depressed supporters need to begin believing again. However the reverse shot of this sequence is the unmoved Puel, clearly not convinced that he is out of the swamp yet (or is it perhaps that Lisandro has been more than vocal in his critique of Puel this season?).
With Gourcuff’s equally determined second goal (41) the over-scorned manager was unable to control himself from at least throwing his hands up in momentary lapse enjoying the victory (perhaps just the sportsman in him cheering for a team he likes rather than a personal victory.)
Opening the second half Lille’s Moussa Sow made a fabulous overhead goal (52), apart from the fact that it was clearly offside. Quickly following this Licha scored a penalty at 56, making it clear that even if Lyon aren’t entirely back Lisandro is (he received a standing ovation when he left the field.) And while Pied was given a red card at 70 Lyon maintained their two point advantage to the end of the match. Will Puel allow himself to rejoice at this seeming comeback? Whenever he feels pangs of doubt he needs only to think of Bordeaux’s pathetic slump last season under Laurent Blanc’s watch, and then remind him where Blanc is now.