Lyon spot-on to clinch semis berth
Olympique Lyonnais held their nerve on a dramatic night in Istanbul to trump Besiktas 6-7 on penalties and clinch a place in the Europa League semis after 120 minutes of play had left the tie deadlocked at 3-3.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, second leg
Besiktas Arena, Istanbul
Besiktas JK - Olympique Lyonnais (agg. 3-3, Lyon win 6-7 on penalties)
Fittingly it was Lyon youth academy product and captain Maxime Gonalons who struck the winning penalty, capping a valiant performance by the French side in the tie and securing them a place in a European semi-final for the first time reaching the Champions League last four in 2009.
Lopes saves, Gonalons fires
It was no more than Les Gones deserved even though they did lose 2-1 on the night, strikes from Besiktas danger man Talisca (27', 58') cancelling out OL top scorer Alexandre Lacazette's crucial away goal (34') to craft an inverted replica of the first-leg scoreline.
With extra-time yielding no change to the scoreline - mainly due to Fabricio's heroics as OL piled on the pressure - penalties ensued. While both sides put away their first six efforts with aplomb, OL's Anthony Lopes made smart saves for the seventh and eighth. And although right-back Christophe Jallet blazed over, Gonalons made no mistake as he sent clinched the shoot-out 7-6 and sent Lyon into raptures - and the draw for the semi-finals.
OL on the front foot
Lyon had a 2-1 first-leg advantage heading into the match but Bruno Genesio's men looked to get forward from the off, Corentin Tolisso threatening early before Talisca drew first blood with a sharp low shot through a crowded area.
Lyon continued to push and Lacazette replied shortly thereafter, placing a cool lob over Fabricio after Gonalons had found him with a deft chip into the area. The OL marksman went agonisingly close to what would likely have a been a decisive second strike minutes later, but his right-footed curler hit the base of the post and flashed across the face of goal (34').
Talisca's effort met a similar fate (42') but the Brazilian was in fine form and not to be denied, fending off the attentions of Jérémy Morel and Gonalons to nod home a second of the night and crack the tie wide open at 3-3 on aggregate.
However, Besiktas began to flag visibly as the strains of the hotly contested encounter took their toll, while Lyon looked the fresher and maintained the upper hand for most of the remainder of the match. Nonethelss, Fabricio turned in an heroic performance to keep his side in it, denying Lacazette (63'), Lucas Tousart (68'), Mouctar Diakhaby and Tousart again in a miraculous double save (88') before the cross-bar denied Lacazette and Lyon the elusive second goal.
Lyon now await the results of Friday's semi-final draw, which will see them pitted against either Manchester United, Ajax Amsterdam or Celta Vigo for a place in what would be the club's first-ever European final.
THE PLAYER: Alexandre Lacazette
The OL hitman was in irrepressible form, leading from the front and showing the kind of composure in the box that will have Europe's big clubs clamouring even harder for his signature come the summer transfer window. Despite the intense atmosphere in the Besiktas Arena, the OL youth academy graduate produced the perfect touch to beat Fabricio and keep his side in the tie.
THE STAT: 0
Besiktas may have maintained their unbeaten record against French clubs in Turkey, having won on the night, but that will be scant consolation for Senol Gunes and his men, whom OL denied the honour of reaching the first major European semi-final in the storied club's history.