Olympique Lyonnais coach Rudi Garcia admits he will have to protect teenage sensation Rayan Cherki after the 16-year-old starred in Saturday's thrilling Coupe de France win over FC Nantes.
Cherki scored twice, including an opener inside the first minute, and then later set up two more goals as well as winning a penalty, as Lyon beat Nantes 4-3 in Saturday's last-32 clash at the Stade de la Beaujoire. It was a sensational performance on just his second senior start, and came after he also netted in the 7-0 defeat of Bourg-en-Bresse in the previous round.
"We know that he is a kid with that capacity to be decisive in games, and of course his performance pleased me," said Garcia. "But of course it is also my role to turn down the noise levels a bit because everyone is going to be praising him to the skies. What really pleased me was his collective performance, the intelligence in his decision-making, and his defensive efforts. If he carries on like that he will keep making progress."
Cherki and Dembélé 'like brothers'
Cherki netted a brace inside the first nine minutes to set Lyon on their way to a fourth win in as many games in 2020. Recent signing Renaud Emond, the Belgian forward, got one back for Nantes, but Martin Terrier restored the visitors' two-goal advantage before the break. Moussa Dembélé then missed a penalty that had been won by Cherki midway through the second half, but the latter set up Dembélé to make it 4-1 shortly after. Imran Louza and Moses Simon pulled further goals back late on for Nantes.
"We wanted to finish the tie off as quickly as possible and stay in the running in four competitions, and we achieved our objective," said Cherki, whose performance comes with Lyon looking to strengthen their attacking options in the January transfer window after losing both Memphis Depay and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde to serious injuries. "It is thanks to my teammates that I have become more mature. Moussa and I are like two brothers on the field."
Saint-Etienne scrape through
Lyon were one of five Ligue 1 Conforama sides to make it through to the last 16 on Saturday, with OGC Nice beating third-tier Red Star 2-1 at the Allianz Riviera, and both Loïc Rémy and Victor Osimhen on target as LOSC defeated fifth-tier side Gonfreville l’Orcher 2-0 in Le Havre.
Five different players were on target as RC Strasbourg Alsace came from behind to win 5-1 at fourth-tier outfit Angoulême, and Mathieu Debuchy notched the winning goal as AS Saint-Etienne came from behind twice to win 3-2 at Ligue 2 strugglers Paris FC.
Elsewhere, JS Saint-Pierroise of Réunion saw their remarkable run come to an end in a 1-0 extra-time loss away to Epinal of the fourth division. The draw for the last 16 takes place on Sunday evening.