One day, one semifinal : Vs Ajax Amsterdam in 2016-2017
Having started their Champions League season, OL could not get better than third place in a group made up of Juventus, Sevilla and Dinamo Zagreb. This bronze medal gave them the right to advance to the round of 32 of the Europa League. It was bad for good given the magnificent run that Alexandre Lacazette's teammates woudl achieve: a quiet start against Alkmaar (1-4, 7-1) before two huge performances against AS Roma (4-2, 2-1) and Besiktas (2-1, 2-1, 6-7 pen). OL therefore returned to the semifinals of a European Cup for the first time since 2010, to face a team as playful as they are talented: Ajax Amsterdam.
Ajax Amsterdam - Olympique Lyonnais (03/05/17) : 4-1 (2-0).
Ahead of this first leg, OL know they have something to play for. The final four consists of Les Gones and Ajax, but also Celta Vigo and a Manchester United side less imperious than in the past. Anything is possible, all the more so after the two previous ties which gave extra soul and hope to the entire Lyon squad. However, nothing would be easy. Ajax are one of the sensations of the season and their "total football" had been thrilling Europe. The first chance will nonetheless be Lyon's -- on a cross from Tousart, Maxwel Cornet pushed Onana into a fine save (10 ’). It would be the only clear opportunity of the start of the match, neither of the two teams really managed to take the game into thier own hand. The scoring will therefore be opened on a set piece. With a free kick from around 30 meters, Ziyech found Bertrand Traoré, not yet a Lyon player, at the penalty spot who headed across goal to open the scoring (1-0, 25 ’).
This goal has the merit of giving a boost to Ajax who took the lead and who would quickly double it. On a misplayed clearance from Anthony Lopes, Bertrand Traoré got the better of Morel and played in Dolberg with a header, who beat the Portuguese goalkeeper with a shot across goal (2-0, 34 ’). The end of the half was one-way traffic and Younes was very close to third goal (44 ’). It was a half to forget for OL who have shown almost nothing.
Despite better intentions from the start in the second, OL will once again be surprised. Released by Ziyech, Younes is free in the box and scores despite the challenge of Diakhaby (3-0, 49 ’). Nabil Fékir tries hard to start the comeback but his shot is too soft to worry Onana (51 ’). The blow is terrible but OL know that just one goal can change everything for the second leg. After attempts by Dolberg (57 ’) and Bertrand Traoré (64’), Valbuena recovered a badly cleared ball on a cross from Jallet and beat Onana with a nice shot (3-1, 66 ’). Hope is reborn and Fekir is even very close to making it 3-2 but loses his one-on-one with the opposing goalkeeper (68 ’). The punishment will be immediate: on a cross from Ziyech, Bertrand Traoré scored a fourth goal for his team (4-1, 71 ’). The chances will follow for Ajax (75 ’, 77’, 81 ’, 83’, 93 ’) but the score will not change. Ajax prevailed against and OL who were too porous defensively to be able to achieve a result in the semifinals of the European Cup.
Feuille de match :
Ajax : Onana - Tete, Sanchez, De Ligt, Riedewald - Schöne (van de Beek, 71’), Klaasen, Ziyech - Traoré, Dolebrg (Neres, 88’), Younes (Kluivert, 79’). Entr : P. Bosz.
OL : Lopes - Jallet (Rafael, 69’), N’Koulou, Diakhaby, Morel - Gonalons, Tousart (Ghezzal, 58’), Cornet (Lacazette, 76’), Valbuena, Tolisso - Fékir. Entr : B. Genesio.
Olympique Lyonnais - Ajax Amsterdam (11/05/17) : 3-1 (2-1).
It was the luck of an OL side that had been limited the previous week to be able to count on the Groupama Stadium in this return leg. Since its inauguration on January 9, 2016, the supporters have never disappointed during the big matches, as evidenced by the extraordinary atmosphere during an OL-Monaco confrontation that was decisive for second place in L1 in May 2016 (6-1). This evening, the stadium is packed again and pushed OL to start the match with their best foot forward, pressing very high. Unfortunately, they failed to carve out any clear chances and indeed the first will fall to Ajax. On a quickly taken free kick, Younes tried to lob Anthony Lopes but the ball was slightly above the crossbar (14 ’). This opportunity set OL back: Les Gones could no longer keep the ball and were still just as poor at the back. What was seemed destined to happen would eventually come to pass: on a ball over the top, Dolberg has a one-on-one against Anthony Lopes and beats him with a chip (0-1, 27 ’). The task is starting to get really difficult for Lyon who must score at least five times now.
Half-time is looming and we seem to be heading towards it with the score being in Ajax’s favor. It was then that a twist of fate would change the course of the meeting. Lacazette popped up in the area but was mown down by De Ligt. The penalty could not be more logical and the French striker will do justice to it himself (1-1, 45 ’). Shortly thereafter, Nabil Fékir got into the box and crossed at the far post for an unmarked Lacazette who then scored his double and gave hope to an entire city (2-1, 45 + 1 ’). OL had managed to turn things around in two minutes and on the cusp of the second half, they only had two goals left to at least reach extra time.
The start of the second half was clearly in favor of the Rhone side, who put a lot of pressure on Ajax. Nevertheless, the chances obtained were too timid to really worry Ajax (50 ’, 52’, 55 ’, 56’). The stadium feels that a comeback is possible and is urging their team on harder and harder, at the same time as Lyon's chances are clearer. In a good position, Fekir's shot passes just over (65 ’). On a rebound, Tolisso narrowly misses the target (69 ’). Rybus pushes Onana into a big save with his right foot (76 ’). Time flies and OL are unable to score their needed third goal despite their many chances. They will even be cowed by a chance from the visitors as van de Beek hit up a superb strike that ended up on Anthony Lopes' crossbar (79 ’). Maybe that would be the trigger. Seconds later, Rybus crosses for Ghezzal whose header beats Onana (3-1, 81 ’). The stadium is erupting, especially as Viergever is sent off for a tackle on Fekir (84 ’). Lyon put enormous pressure on Ajax and gave themselves a chance that will unfortunately be remembered: on a cross from Ghezzal, Maxwel Cornet hits a volley. Unmarked, the Ivorian overhits his shot which passes only a few centimeters from the goal... (88 ’). OL never managed to score the fourth goal and the game ended with a score of 3-1. Les Gones clearly pay for their lack of focus in the first leg and give up a great opportunity to advance to the first European final in their history.
OL : Lopes - Rafael, N’Koulou, Diakhaby, Morel (Rybuys, 74’) - Gonalons, Tolisso, Cornet, Valbuena (Ghezzal, 77’), Fékir - Lacazette. Manager: B. Genesio.
Ajax : Onana - Veltman (Tete, 65’), Sanchez, De Ligt, Viergever - Schöne, (van de Beek, 59’) Klaasen, Ziyech - Traoré, Younes (Kluivert, 82’), Dolberg. Manager: P. Bosz.