Olympique Lyonnais will almost certainly be champions of France for the 13th consecutive time in the women’s French top flight division. On Saturday night in a joyful Groupama Stadium, they inflicted PSG’s first league defeat of the season in stunning fashion, 5-0, and now have a three-point lead over their rivals with just two matches left. They will win those matches, nothing is surer. Not only is the title in their hands, but they are on the verge of making it their tenth undefeated season.
With a 5-0 win, they matched their record victory over Paris from back in 2015. And it might be some consolation to the men’s team, who lost in the capital by the same scoreline earlier this season.
But the most significant record of the night was not Lyon’s continuing streak of domination, which has come to be expected. Rather, the attendance of 25,907 was the highest for any women’s match ever to have taken place in France. Ahead of the World Cup to be held in France this summer, it is an encouraging illustration of the popular momentum that women’s football is gathering.
After only 7 minutes, Amandine Henry crossed with her weaker left foot and found Ada Hegerberg whose run tricked Ashley Lawrence. The Norwegian’s header found the inside of the far post as she duly celebrated against her little sister’s club. Eugenie Le Sommer added a second after a sweeping attacking move concluded with Jess Fishlock’s pass cutting through the defence and allowing the number 9 to chip goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek.
Just before half-time, a handball by Ève Périsset gave Lyon a penalty to kill the match. Wrong-footing the goalkeeper, Wendie Renard converted it to score her 100th goal for OL, an unbelievable figure for a centre-back. It is worth noting that the captain has participated in all 12 league-winning campaigns – soon to be 13.
PSG might feel hard-done by the refereeing. At 1-0, they were denied a penalty for a similar handball by Griedge Mbock. Truth be told, it was refreshing to see play continue without any complaints or long interruptions in this VAR-less league. Referees have a split second to make decisions and mistakes occur, much like a bad first touch.
And really Paris brought difficulty upon themselves. Manager Olivier Echouafni adopted the same 5-3-2 he used against Chelsea in the Champions’ League. The first half suggested that this was a bad mistake as Lyon completely dominated PSG in midfield. The extra defender was of little help, nor was Marie-Antoinette Katoto up front. The 20-year old phenomenon has disappointed in another big match, which is starting to become a bad habit.
At half-time, Chinese midfielder Shuang Wang replaced central defender Emma Berglung in an attempt to adjust the team’s balance, which brought a slight improvement. But the damage was done, and PSG’s confidence was already knocked. The international break apparently not enough to digest their last-minute elimination against Chelsea in Europe’s premier competition.
Dzsenifer Marozsan added a fourth goal fifteen minutes into the second half and it was time to wait out the final whistle. Substitute Shanice Van de Sanden used and abused her pace to score the fifth in extra time, and the stadium exploded with joy as their brilliant evening came to a close.
“We saw a lot of words in the media but what’s important is action. And I think we acted well on the pitch today,” commented Amandine Henry to Canal +, as a way of reminding her opponents that their ambitions are easier talked about than accomplished.
OL’s star-studded side showed great energy with their pressing and inversely were never shaken when on the ball. Delphine Cascarino, the woman in form, made a return to the right wing but failed to add her name to the scoresheet. For their 500th match, OL’s women’s team and their astounding all-time 86% win-rate issued a full demonstration of their talents and class.
It is the first piece of good news at OL in this month of April, a period that has rocked the club to its core with the three consecutive losses suffered by the men’s team, the announcement earlier on Saturday of Bruno Génésio’s departure, and the questioning of Jean-Michel Aulas’ leadership. TV cameras caught Aulas looking unusually gloomy for such an occasion, but maybe the routine supremacy was not as emotional as the recent disappointments.
Les Lyonnaises still have objectives to look forward to as they face Chelsea in the Champions’ League semi-final and Lille in the Coupe de France final. A chance for their fourth triple, if anyone’s still counting their records.