Valiant Lyon fall short
By A. Scott
Olympique Lyonnais fell short of a miraculous recovery in their UEFA Europa League semi-final against AFC Ajax, a 3-1 win at the Parc OL in their second leg on Thursday not enough to prevent a 5-4 aggregate defeat.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg
Olympique Lyonnais 3 - 1 AFC Ajax
Ajax win 5-4 on aggregate
Needing to overturn a 4-1 deficit from the first leg, Lyon clearly wanted to get off to a flying start but Bruno Genesio's side displayed too much nervous energy in the opening stages. Passes were misplaced, tackles were misjudged, and both Jérémy Morel and Corentin Tolisso picked up yellow cards for late challenges.
Ajax looked the more composed of the two sides and they had chances before they opened the scoring in the 27th minute. The goal came from an André Onana kick out, with the Lyon defence at sixes and sevens as the impressive Kasper Dolberg exchanged passes with Amin Younes before running through and lifting a cool finish over Anthony Lopes.
That silenced the home fans, with only the 3,000 or so Dutch fans high up in one corner of the stadium making themselves heard. The tie seemed over, but OL were handed a route back into it in the final moments of the opening period.
First Polish referee Szymon Marciniak awarded a penalty when Alexandre Lacazette went down under a Matthijs De Ligt challenge inside the box, and Lacazette got up to convert from the spot (45'). Then Nabil Fekir's low ball across the six-yard box was turned in by Lacazette at the back post and it was game on again (45+1').
Only three French sides had succeeded in winning a European tie despite losing 4-1 in the first leg. But Lyon had given themselves a chance. They continued to push forward after the break but struggled to keep a cool head in the final third, witness Fekir blazing over from a great position after a De Ligt clearance had ricocheted off Davinson Sánchez and into his path.
Ajax almost killed the tie off once and for all when Davy Klaassen controlled a corner and laid the ball off for substitute Donny van de Beek, but his fine effort from just outside the box crashed off an upright (78'). Three minutes later Lyon scored again, a lovely move ending with Maciej Rybus crossing for his fellow substitute Rachid Ghezzal to head in with the aid of a deflection off Nick Viergever.
Ajax then had Viergever sent off when he was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Fekir just outside the box (84') but Peter Bosz's side held on to qualify for a first European final in 21 years. They will face Manchester United in Stockholm on May 24, while all that is left for Lyon are two games to ensure they hold on to fourth spot in Ligue 1.
THE PLAYER: Alexandre Lacazette
Lacazette's absence from the starting line-up in the first leg was a huge blow for Lyon. Here he started and his two goals late in the first half revived the tie. It has been another superb season for the striker but it will end without silverware.
THE STAT: 47
Lyon have scored 47 goals at home in 2017 in 14 games. An impressive average of 3.4 per game, but they couldn't get the one more they needed here to force extra time.