Bastos eases Lyon clear of chasing pack
By I. Holyman
Michel Bastos scored the only goal of the game as Olympique Lyonnais won the Rhône derby beating AS Saint-Etienne 1-0 to move five points clear atop the Ligue 1 table on Sunday.
AS Saint-Etienne 0 - 1 Olympique Lyonnais
The 105th Rhône derby was the first since Saint-Etienne's last title-winning season, the 1980-81 campaign, to feature two sides who had come into the weekend on the Ligue 1 podium. Les Verts, however, would end it in fourth place after Bastos' powerful 65th-minute free-kick zipped through the grasp of Stéphane Ruffier to end the hosts' 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
With bottom side AS Nancy Lorraine the visitors to Stade Municipal de Gerland on Wednesday, Rémi Garde's men will be hopeful of at least maintaining their cushion at the top prior to meeting second-placed Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes next Sunday. They will do so, though, without Mouhamadou Dabo, sent off ten minutes after the break at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard; the hosts, too, ended with ten men as Alejandro Alonso picked up two bookings in the space of minute to head to the dressing-room six minutes from time.
With the stakes so high, it perhaps should not have come as a surprise that the first 45 minutes were animated more by what was happening off the pitch rather than on it, though Lyon had the excuse of Clément Grenier's injury barely 12 minutes in which forced the young midfielder off and meant Garde had to change his plans.
The hosts' best opportunity was made by the visitors when Milan Bisevac left a backpass short, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang charged onto it only to shoot straight at the on-rushing Rémy Vercoutre. The OL goalkeeper, who had been compared to a Citroën 2CV in midweek by Les Verts' president Roland Romeyer, certainly moved quickly enough when his team needed him.
Dabo, Alonso off
The Gabonese forward's effort was the sole shot on target before the break, and not insignificantly proved to be the hosts' only shot on goal come the final whistle. Lyon too created an excellent opening for themselves before the interval. A crisp first-time pass from Bafétimbi Gomis, booed copiously by the fans of his former club, found Anthony Réveillère sweeping down the right, but having got behind the home back four, the veteran full-back could only clip a shot across the face of goal.
OL's chances looked to be slipping when Dabo reacted angrily to a challenge by Max-Alain Gradel, the former Saint-Etienne left-back butting the Ivorian international to receive his club's second red card of the season. However, Dabo had also been dismissed at Gerland when OL won there against their neighbours last season, and history would repeat itself, though Ruffier would surely have expected to have stopped Bastos' powerful free-kick - the Saint-Etienne goalkeeper appeared to anticipate a shot to his right, and was unable to switch his weight back when the ball zipped to his left.
Former OL full-back François Clerc sent a shot just wide, but Saint-Etienne were unable to break down a stubborn Lyon rearguard, and in a frantic finish, Alonso, who had only come off the bench some eight minutes before, lost his cool, lunging recklessly into a challenge with Samuel Umtiti just a minute after being booked for a clash with the young Lyon defender to cap a disappointing evening for the hosts.