It was exactly what we didn’t need.
After a turbulent week in European football, further nastiness was served up at the Parc OL last night, as supporters of Lyon and Beşiktaş clashed violently in the stands.
The game was delayed for 45 minutes, with supporters running on to the pitch seeking refuge from the firecrackers and projectiles. It was an uncomfortable echo of the previous day in Madrid, where a gaggle of Leicester fans brought shame on themselves by clashing with Spanish police in the Plaza Mayor.
As if Lyon’s week hadn’t been bad enough. A 4-1 defeat at home to Lorient on Sunday has put their Champions League hopes in real jeopardy. When the game finally got under way last night, former Liverpool flop Ryan Babel was on hand to give the Turkish side the lead on fifteen minutes.
Lyon were suffocated, and had to repel an Ottoman assault as the visitors stamped their authority on the game, peppering the home defence with crosses and strikes on goal. As they have so often this season, Lyon had Corentin Tolisso to thank for an equaliser on 83 minutes. The result was made safe when, just seconds later, Fabricio’s horrific attempt at skill presented Jérémy Morel with an easy tap-in and a slender first-leg advantage.
The game was just the latest indication of how important Tolisso is to this young Lyon side. With rumours of an impending move to Juventus or Arsenal gathering pace, the 22-year-old reminded fans yet again of his supreme talents, controlling matters in the middle of the pitch as Bruno Génésio looked to strangle the visitors’ passing game.
Lyon will head to the Vodafone arena on the 20th April knowing that they could and perhaps should have made the tie safe. The home side were dominant in the second half against Şenol Güneş’ men, garnering 61% of possession and firing 21 shots compared to the visitors paltry 8.
Tolisso, however, was at the heart of it. The Tarare- native has come quite a long way since stepping in during the club’s injury crisis in 2014/15, becoming an ever-present alongside Max Gonalons at the base of the Lyon midfield. Despite his relatively young age, Tolisso’s authoritative passing and stamina have dovetailed well with the more brusque talents of the Lyon captain.
Only Alexandre Lacazette has more goals this year, and nobody has more assists. With an average WhoScored Rating of 7.27, it’s no surprise that pundits are speculating on a similar move to that which saw Mario Lemina join Turin giants Juventus in 2015.
“I know Corentin and Alexandre are keen to win trophies here and if OL become equal with some of the big European teams they’ll stay and I’ll be very happy”, Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas admitted in recent weeks.
The ‘if’, is a very big one indeed. Aulas knows very well the prize of his two most prized possessions, and will undoubtedly sell if the price is right.
It could be an interesting summer for Lyon fans, who may be advised to enjoy their two star players while they last.