Lyon turn it around!
By S. Willis
On a dramatic evening that saw kick-off delayed by crowd disturbances, Lyon saved the best for last, coming back from a goal down to beat Besiktas 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
UEFA Europa League quarter-final, first leg
Parc OL, Lyon
Olympique Lyonnais 2 - 1 Besiktas JK
Lyon would doubtless have been hoping for a smoother entry into the match as they looked to turn the page on their 4-1 home humiliation at the hands of Ligue 1 cellar-dwellers Lorient at the weekend, but with fans forced onto the pitch to avoid flares in the stands, the delay was inevitable.
However, Lyon will hardly be complaining now that they are in the driver's seat in the tie, having conjured two late goals in as many minutes - from the inspirational Corentin Tolisso (83') and left-back Jérémy Morel (84') - to cancel out Ryan Babel's early away goal (15').
Besiktas break free
Besiktas threatened early with their pace and physicality, but it was from a set-piece that playmaker Talisca slid a clever low free-kick to Babel, who latched onto the pass on the edge of the area before beating Anthony Lopes with a sharp angled finish.
Nabil Fekir saw his effort come back off the post after Tolisso had broken and cut the ball back neatly (19'), but Lyon's efforts to get back onto the front foot wouldn't bear fruit until much later in the game. Besiktas defended in a solid organised fashion and Lyon's forward foursome of Alexandre Lacazette, Fekir, Rachid Ghezzal and Mathieu Valbuena struggled to link up to good effect as the first half played out.
The second half saw Lyon increase the pressure on their visitors, and aside from Talisca's header wide (49'), it was largely OL making the running. Lyon had a penalty claim waved away for off-side (50') before Valbuena (56', 64') and Lacazette (70') both went close, and when Tolisso saw his header crash back off the post (79'), the suspense was almost unbearable.
Lyon hit back, wrap it up
And then the goal came. Valbeuna won a free-kick in a dangerous position and Tolisso was on hand to toe-poke past Fabricio for the equaliser after a hapless Talisca had deflected the ball inadvertently into his path.
The drama wasn't over, however, as Lyon pushed on and, pressing high up the pitch, forced a bizarre error from Fabricio that saw the on-rushing Morel pinch the ball and stroke into the empty net to hand Lyon a dramatic win on a decidedly dramatic night.
Lyon now have a 2-1 aggregate advantage ahead of the return leg at the Turkish Süper Lig leaders' brand-new stadium - where they have gone unbeaten since its inauguration in April 2016 - in Istanbul next Thursday.
THE PLAYER: Corentin Tolisso
OL's newly capped France international showed the kind of mettle and fighting spirit the club is famous for as he pushed his side back in to the match and plundered a deserved goal. His leading by example in the absence of talismanic captain Maxime Gonalons helped OL avert what could have been a second-straight home disaster - after Saturday's league loss to Lorient - and get back on track in the only competition OL can still win this season.
THE STAT: 1
Former Lorient and Marseille defender Jérémy Morel's winner was his first goal for Lyon and his first in European competitions, coming in his 33nd continental clash (23 in the Champions League and ten in the Europa League).