2017 Cup Final: Olympique Lyon – Paris Saint Germain 1:1 (7:6 a.p.)

Another final of the two leading clubs in France – you have been used to write when these two met in the past. But Montpellier HSC has managed to get in between this season and removed Paris from the second rank. And that means Paris would be out of the Champions League next season in case they do not manage to win it and earn the right to participate as title holders. Still though this is the most glamorous match up in France. Olympique Lyon had won the league match the week before quite comfortably but had suffered already three 0:1 defeats during the season. One of these against PSG in their first league match back in December.

Headline: As tight as expected
The clear result the week before might have made it look like OL were clear favorites. They were favorites. No doubt about that. But this game showed quite well why it wasnt that clear. And not every day things are coming your way easily without doing too much for it. Especially when you dont get the space you like in the opposite half.

What happened on the pitch
There was not too much change compared to the line ups from the last match. But you could see from the start that Paris wasnt offering the spaces they had last time in their own half. And an early goal heavily played into their cards and made them even more confident in relying on their game plan.
And the goal had been the other way round. This time Paris Saint-Germaines’s Christiane was sent into the free spaces behind the Lyon defense. We rarely see her make 40m sprints after a through ball in any match. Maybe that was the reason we were slightly astonished she was able to shrug off the attempts from Amel Majri to get to the ball first. But the finish was some example of a beauty. She cut inside from the wing and was yet still at about the top corner of the Lyon box. And the position from where the shot was taken was somewhat similar to the winning goal of Delie in their first league match. But Christianes shot was even more accurately curled exactly into the upper 90 of the far corner.
That goal gave Paris the confidence that they were on the right track. But it made Lyon not yet fearful the same could happen as against VfL Wolfsburg and Manchester City Ladies. There was still plenty of time and they had scored three during the last 90 minutes they played Paris. But it was enough to justify the roles  in this match even further. Lyon trying to break the deep sitting defense of Paris down. Paris remaining to have the first priority of not leaving spaces open in their own defense

That picture didnt change too much after the equaliser. And it was characteristic it wasnt a goal from open play. A rather emotional foul play and probably the right decision. Despite we couldnt quite clearly see what happened before Shirley Cruz wrestled her opponent down while the corner kick was flying into the box. But there could have been a penalty whistle also a few minutes earlier for a handball. But that happened very hidden from the refs who couldnt see it.

Not quite as safely as usual Saki Kumagai put it away. Katerzyna Kiedrzinek had made up a rather proactive match plan. She moved and jumped nearly too heavily so the flat ball could pass beneath her despite she managed to get some contact with her hand. But not enough so it went into the net and everything was on level again. Most of the half Lyon looked comfortable in possession and dominated most of it. But only far away from the dangerous areas and they could not come up with much to show in the opposite box. Paris on some counter attacks seemed absolutely on level as far as the dangerous situations around the box were concerned.

Not too much changed in the second half though Lyon had the better chances now while Paris struggled to come as deep into the Lyon half as they had in the first half. A nice curled try from Thomis cutting inside and firing with her left foot showed another example of how much she has improved technically over the last years – but still went over the crossbar at the far side. But especially Ada Hegerberg came very close with a short range shot from the 6 yard box after she got her foot into a flat cross. But only to find the leg of Kiedrzinek on the line. The best chance of the match not very deep into the second half.
However. That was that. It might have looked like the beginning of increased pressure from Lyon or pushing more bodies up front. But that was not the case. There were no more highlights to come until the final whistle. So the 1:1 at the end was quite according to the performances on the pitch. And we had to decide the Cup winner in the penalty shoot out.


 French Cup starting line up
starting line-up

Paris and Lyon both didnt change too much compared to the last match. Lyon played a back line of 4 with M’Bock – Buchanan – Renard – Majri. The midfield with Kumagai – Abily – Maroszan. And Thomis – Hegerberg – LeSommer in the attack when having the ball. On the right side Bremer was still missed but M’Bock didnt look bad when she started to support the attack late in the game in the last 15 minutes.

Paris also pretty much the same only focussing on staying deeper. So it was mainly a back line of 5 with Paredes – Delannoy – Georges in the center supported by Perisset on the right and Lawrence on the left. Formiga – Geyoro – Cruz in midfield and Delie and Christiane up front.

Staying compact in the back line was key because we saw in the past that Lyon can be unforegivingly punishing when they are getting the spaces they need. Whereas they sometimes find it very difficult to cut through tight areas around the box when not. What – in turn – makes you wonder what they are trying to do to answer the challenge. At times this match like against the other top teams before looked as if even Ada Hegerberg up top was pretty much hardly involved in the game and thus of not much use at all.
But also the midfield hadnt much effect in attacking the opponent. From the wings Majri was trying on the left but didnt find many situations where she could get a dangerous cross in because she mostly was well defended mainly by Eve Perisset. On the right side you once wondered when Elodie Thomis was involved in a footrace to the ball. Because in this case she wasnt winning ground on Ashley Lawrence as you are used to see normally against the defenders. So she also couldnt get through very often bar two or three occasions. And Griedge M’Bock started to support the right wing up front only in the last quarter of an hour. Thus Paris despite being unable to threaten the Lyon goal very much was quite comfortably holding off the Lyon offense for the most part of the game.

Summary and Resume

Once again an example for how tight it has got. Granted, Paris even beat Lyon two or three years ago. But that was when OL was weaker and still it was more kind of an exception. Because the level of the players is more even now and the wins have to be grinded out based on much smaller margins.
What sometimes does work out. But more often than in the past it also sometimes does not. It seems more decisive now then ever before in womens football who can put away the few chances. And on the day that might well be Sweden against the USA. Or it might be Manchester City against Olympique Lyon.
Still OL are favourites against Paris and when they manage to put away their chances early on they are winning quite comfortably. But it doesnt need that huge amount of things going in the way of the weaker team to turn things around because the margins having got very small.
The advantage of this is that the teams are urged to have a look to find a way to improve their offensive play. Even if some are now rewarded for trying to make the defense even tighter. This is one important aspect. But at the end a risky gamble for the top teams that doesnt lead to sustainable progress. Though it might help national teams on the short run of short tournaments more than club teams through a whole season.

What could they do better in Cardiff?

Apart from the overall possibilities and based on how their play actually looks like. The main decisive fact will most probably be again the match up in front of the Paris goal. While Delannoy – Paredes – Georges are playing smart and positionally well organised. Their main problem is the speed advantage of especially LeSommer and Thomis. If the Paris defense stays compact enough to prevent them from running in between and deep enough to close spaces behind them and make Lyon try to combine their way through – they might well be able to hold the Olympique offense again. Not giving away penalties unnecessarily always helps.
The trio of Cruz – Geyoro – Formiga might be slightly better than Kumagai – Abily – Maroszan.

A main target of Paris still could be to improve in counter attacking. Seeing Christiane win a long distance footrace to the ball to score the only goal was really good. A chance to understand how much that is missing usually when she only awaits the ball to be played into her feet. While Marie-Laure Delie looked like not the best choice up front when you need to play fast counter attacks. Pitch your fastest player would help for that style of play. Especially if Laure Boulleau could play left back and Ashley Lawrence used further up front to win footraces.

The weaker points in Lyons defense actually are Amel Majri (because she is better in a midfield role) and Kadeisha Buchanan. So Christiane should aim to go where ever she can find herself playing against one of these and avoid the others (though M’Bock might be still not very experienced also).

Lyon actually mainly looks strong when they can exploit free spaces in the opposite defense with fast attacks into them. It is too late to change that now. Trying to combine through midfield often hasnt earned them much when a quality opponent team are sitting deep and are defending well organised. It might well be the question to try to avoid that at all and mainly play long high balls for Hegerberg from anywhere. And mainly try to get to the second balls. That might give them better chances to succeed than combining their way through a crowded midfield.

These are the things with the best probabilities. But we know: Football mostly – but very often not – goes with it.


Player Ratings:

Olympique Lyon

Gerrard: 6.5
Not much to do and no chance to prevent the goal

M’Bock: 7
Ok in defense. But not enough going forward

Renard: 7.5
Ok in defense with no big challenges

Buchanan: 6.5
Solid in defense

Majri: 7
A good Good athlet to win the duels. Still to polish the football skills

Kumagai: 7
Solid without sparkle.

Abily: 7
Solid midfield fight. Could there be more

Maroszan: 6
Not enough impact on the match for a “10” role

Thomis: 6.5
ok in midfield battling. But not her preferred style

Hegerberg: 6
Not many useful balls in the box

LeSommer: 6.5
Most lively offensive player in a white jersey


Kadrzienek: 7.5
Very resolute and commanding. Nearly too active

Perisset: 7
Strong and stable performance.

Paredes: 7
Very much improved athleticism during the last year

Delannoy: 7
Solid. Good positioning as always

Georges: 7
Winner at the end against Diani after initial problems.

Lawrence: 7
Solid in defense but no effect in offense

Formiga: 7
Also solid in midfield

Geyoro: 7
Solid holding her ground

Cruz: 7
Seemed lonesome in offense Also solid fighter but also not too much effect for the offense

Christiane: 7
Most active offensive player from MHSC but also no result

Delie: 5
Powerful and pressing forward but unlucky when the chance was there.

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