Ligue 1 leaders Lyon fell to a limp home defeat by mid-table FC Metz at the Groupama Stadium on Sunday night, bringing to and end the hosts’ run of sixteen games unbeaten.
It was a fairly even game, lacking quality, littered with mistakes and characterised by poor finishing from both sides. It could have gone either way and neither team truly deserved the win but in the end the visitors snatched a winner in stoppage time.
Substitute Rayan Cherki was forced off the ball inside his own half allowing Metz to find Leya Iseka in acres of space running through the Lyon back line. Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes had a decision to make – should he stay on his line or rush out to try and beat the Metz forward to the ball.
In the end, he did neither, coming towards the edge of his box before slowing and allowing the striker to play the ball past him and stroke it into the empty net, leaving Lyon little time to respond.
The game’s moment of controversy had occurred in the 74th minute when Lyon thought they had taken the lead. Thiago Mendes had a shot deflected onto the bar by Oukidja in the Metz goal. It then bounced off a defender’s head into the path of Karl Toko Ekambi, who fired it into the goal.
However, Houssem Aouar was in an offside position when Thiago Mendes shot and was harshly deemed to have interfered with play by the referee even though he didn’t touch the ball or seem to block the view or affect the actions of the goalkeeper or defender in any way.
If that goal had stood, Lyon would in all probability have gone on to win the game and maintain their position at the top of the table. As it was, they drop down to third behind PSG and Lille, who both won over the weekend.
The time taken to arrive at a decision by the video assistant referee was also unsatisfactory, as Lyon had already made two substitutions by the time the ‘goal’ was chalked off and perhaps they may not have made those changes had the score still been nil nil.
The replacement of two strikers with a striker and a midfielder suggested they were looking to protect their lead rather than chase a winner, but it was too late to retract those changes once the VAR decision was finally announced.
New signing Islam Slimani was once of the players introduced, but he was unable to make any impact on his debut and wasted one glorious situation inside the Metz box with a feeble pass into the void when he could have shot or held the ball up for a team mate.
For now, Lyon are still very much in the title race, but they can’t afford any more performances like this one if they are to keep pace with their rivals. They need to get back to winning ways in the derby away at St Etienne next Sunday evening.