Moussa Dembélé scored again as Olympique Lyonnais stepped up their bid for a top-two finish with a 3-2 win over Montpellier Hérault SC on Sunday.
Olympique Lyonnais 3-2 Montpellier Hérault SC
The midweek chastening at Barcelona meant an end to this season's UEFA Champions League campaign, but also brought into sharper focus Lyon's need to improve their form to ensure they return to the competition next season.
LOSC Lille's 1-0 defeat to AS Monaco gave OL additional motivation with the prize of closing the gap the northerners in second place to a manageable four points — with that in mind, Martin Terrier's 12th-minute opener was just the start they needed.
Rafael moved down the right flank before delivering a cross that Terrier cut short at the near post, and though Benjamin Lecomte kept his initial effort out, the Lyon man followed up smartly (12') to sidefoot home his fourth league strike of the campaign.
Montpellier, who had won just one of their previous ten encounters with Lyon, were struggling to contain the hosts, and Hossem Aouar fired narrowly wide as the hosts looked likely to add to their advantage (28').
Instead, they were pegged back. Quite brilliantly. Florent Mollet's ability with the dead ball is well documented, and he did nothing to damage his reputation by sending a shot into the top right-hand corner of Mathieu Gorgelin's goal (36').
Gorgelin, who was making just his 11th top-flight appearance in six seasons following Anthony Lopes' midweek injury, got a touch on the ball, but could not keep it out. He did paw aside another Mollet effort — this time from open play — to ensure the sides went in level at the break (43').
Nabil Fekir, who had scored seven times against Montpellier in his career, fired just wide after the interval (48') as Lyon stepped up the tempo while the rain beat down still more heavily at the Groupama Stadium.
The conditions did nothing to dampen the delight when Dembélé put Lyon in front. Tanguy Ndombele's pass split the visiting rearguard, and Dembélé, who had scored four times in his last two league games before kick-off, confidently swept in his 12th strike of the league campaign (58').
The hosts enjoyed a let-off when Mollet had a goal ruled out for offside (68'), and then reciprocated as Fekir sent a spot-kick over Lecomte's crossbar after Nicolas Cozza's foul on Bertrand Traoré had been punished (70').
With over 70% possession, Lyon were suffocating their opponents, but Lecomte ensured Montpellier kept their chances alive by beating away Léo Dubois' shot (75') and keeping Dembélé at bay (80').
Aouar brought a premature end to the suspense with the hosts' third with a diving header (86') only for Souleymane Camara to reinstate it in the dying seconds as he reduced Montpellier's deficit to one (90+2') with a goal that means the veteran Senegal international has now scored in each of the last 18 top-flight seasons in France.
THE PLAYER: Moussa Dembélé
The summer signing from Celtic has taken his time to adapt to Ligue 1 Conforama, but he now has eight goals since the turn of the year — two-thirds of his season's tally — and is giving his team not only a threat but a presence in front of goal.
THE STAT: 54
None of Lyon's last 54 league games have ended goalless — their last blank came against Montpellier in November 2017.