OL and Montpellier close in on objectives
By D. Crossan
Olympique Lyonnais will seek to put their Europa League disappointment behind them and secure fourth place in Ligue 1 when they go to a Montpellier side that require a single point to be guaranteed top-flight football next season.
OL came agonisingly close to achieving their so-called "remontadAjax" and forcing extra-time against the Dutch club on Thursday evening. 4-1 down after the first leg of the semi-final tie in Amsterdam, Lyon came from behind at the Parc OL to win 3-1. Maxwel Cornet had a great chance to force the additional 30 minutes late on, but it wasn't to be and the club's wait for a first European final goes on. Exiting the competition at the last-four stage means there'll be no Champions League football for OL next season, though they will be back in the Europa League.
Club president Jean-Michel Aulas said: "It's immensely disappointing. The first leg probably cost us the qualification. I would like to take my hat off to the players and the coaching staff. We certainly deserved to take it to extra-time."
After finishing second in Ligue 1 in each of the previous two seasons, even clinching fourth place would represent a regression for OL, who have been infuriatingly inconsistent all season, equally capable of brilliance and abject football.
Coach Bruno Genesio, however, retains the confidence of his long-serving president. Aulas said: "Of course he'll still be our coach next season. And maybe some of the players that people think are definitely leaving will stil be here too, because they haven't left yet."
OL will be wondering if the Ajax tie might have turned out differently had Alexandre Lacazette been fit to start the away leg. Fully recovered from his hamstring issue, the club's leading scorer struck twice in 81 seconds in the first half of the return leg in a man-of-the-match performance.
Lacazette: "We are capable of the best and the worst"
The French international forward was as lucid off the pitch as he was on it, saying: "We're disappointed. We were conscious of the mistakes we made in the first leg. The two legs were in keeping with our season. We are capable of the best and the worst. Cornet's chance went two centimetres wide and that was a pity. I would have preferred to have qualified for the final than to have scored two goals."
Montpellier failed to get the point they required to ensure Ligue 1 survival in last Sunday's soporific 1-0 loss at Rennes. It will be fascinating to see whether Jean-Louis Gasset's men, without injured skipper Vitorino Hilton, take such a passive approach when they host Lyon.
Gasset: "We are better than the five clubs behind us"
Gasset said: "We had a plan at Rennes because we needed a point. We defended really well but all the work of the week was thrown away by one mistake. I wasn't bored during the match. I was there to reassure the club and the supporters. We played prudently and in controlled fashion. If we'd got a 0-0 then we would have been singing in the dressing room. We are better than the five clubs behind us but we have to be careful as in football anything can happen."
Montpellier: Pionnier; Mukiele, Congré, Pokorny, Deplagne; Skhiri (c), Sylla; Sessegnon, Boudebouz, Lasne; Mounié
Lyon: Lopes; Jallet, Yanga-Mbiwa, Diakhaby, Rybus; Tousart, Tolisso; Ghezzal, Fekir, Depay; Lacazette (c)