After half an hour at the Parc OL, everything was going to plan. Corentin Tolisso had just slid in his eight goal of the season, and Lorient were sinking without trace.
Then Majeed Waris happened, sweeping home a Jérémie Aliadière cross to level matters before a stunning brace from Benjamin Moukandjo sealed the result.
As the dust settles, Les Gones are languishing fourteen points off the Champions League places. Bruno Génésio’s men came into this game on the back of four consecutive home wins and an evisceration of Roma in the Europa League.
Aided by the goals of Alexandre Lacazette and the guile of January signing Memphis Depay, hopes were high that a European berth would be an achievable aim. Unbeaten at home since January, matchday 32 was a chance to keep the momentum going.
Instead, it crashed to an embarrassing halt. Lyon’s form has collapsed at precisely the wrong time, with one win from their last four games prompting a cacophony of boos from the stands.
“I am angry, sad, ashamed” Génésio lamented in the press conference after the game, struggling to make sense of his team’s performance. Angry, because of the way his team gifted the result to Bretons. Sad, because the loss means that Lyon have just six games to rescue a season going into startling decline. Ashamed, because it was the worst possible preparation for Thursday’s visit of Turkey’s champions-elect Besiktas.
Lyon’s travails are not all of their own making, of course. Monaco have been the darlings of Europe this term, Kylian Mbappé and company showing real promise in the Principality to top the standings. Their neighbours just down the Riviera OGC Nice have also been insatiable, aided by the goalscoring evangelism of a renewed Mario Balotelli.
Lyon have come a long way from the heyday of Juninho Pernaumbucano and Sydney Govou, where Jean Michel Aulas’ ‘Moneyball’ philosophy prompted a decade of dominance in the early 00’s. That was before the petrodollars in the capital sent the Empire falling, and as PSG romped to the ascendancy Lyon struggled, finishing runners-up last term and offering paltry resistance to the nouveau-riche Parisians.
Things will continue to get worse in the summer ahead, with Lacazette finally leaving Ligue 1 for pastures new. Nabil Fékir is another likely departure, following Clément Grenier who has already jumped ship to Roma.
If OL fans hoped that the fixture list would provide some comfort, they’d be wrong. Nobody gets an easy game in Corsica, even if Bastia’s form this year has been poor. That fixture is followed immediately by the visit of Leonardo Jardim’s title pretenders, who will have their own reasons for ensuring a positive result in the Rhône Valley. The final game of the season looks increasingly vital, with Nice travelling to Génésio’s men on the 20th May for what may be a European and title decider.
Lyon can ill-afford another collapse like the one witnessed on Saturday. OL Fans, and indeed those of European football in general, will be hoping they pull themselves together. Failing that, they could win the Europa League and secure themselves a Champions’ League position. In light of their stuttering form, it looks increasingly like their only option.