Penalty woe for Lyon in final final

Olympique Lyonnais lost out on penalties to Paris-Saint Germain in the last ever Coupe de la Ligue final after holding the champions to a goalless draw at the conclusion of extra time. It was a spirited performance from Lyon and they matched PSG for long periods of the game at the Stade de France, even having some chances to win the match, but in the end their penalty shoot-out jinx came back to haunt them.

The first five penalties for each team were converted before Bertrand Traoré’s spot kick was saved by Keylor Navas and Pablo Sarabia stepped up to fire past Anthony Lopes and clinch the trophy for PSG. Lyon now have the undesirable record of having lost 16 of the 20 penalty shoot-outs they have contested in domestic cup competitions.

Maybe things would have been different if Ciprian Tătărușanu had been available. The Romanian goalkeeper had been playing in Lyon’s run to the final of the Coupe de la Ligue and had saved a penalty in a rare shoot-out win against Lille in the semi-final, but he injured himself in the run up to the final and didn’t even make the bench.

Regular first choice goalkeeper Anthony Lopes put in a sublime performance during the 120 minutes of play and was possibly Lyon’s best player on the day, but he never looked like saving any of the PSG penalties. He may well be one of the best ‘keepers in the country, perhaps even in Europe, but penalty saving is not his forte. He doesn’t seem to be imposing enough to disconcert opposition penalty takers, and he tends to dive early giving them the chance to place the ball on the other side of the goal. Perhaps the greater height and stature of Tătărușanu would have unnerved some of PSG’s penalty takers enough to force a mistake.

The first period of normal time had been a fairly cagey affair. The opening exchanges were very even with both sides gently probing each other in midfield and taking time to settle into the game. There was a shot from Neymar that flew not far past the far post and a half chance for Memphis Depay at the other end and Lyon enjoyed plenty of possession without creating many openings.

The only booking of the first half came in the nineteenth minute when Maxence Caqueret was cautioned for a foul on Neymar, but that aside it wasn’t a particularly physical encounter. There was nothing to choose between the sides at the drinks break but Matteo Veratti began to impose himself on the game thereafter, pulling the strings imperiously from midfield.

Lyon forged an opportunity in the 37th minute when a cross from Depay forced Thiago Silva into conceding a corner from which Cornet had a chance but couldn’t get enough behind his shot. The game opened up in the last five minutes of the first half. First there was a Neymar chance in the 40th minute but he shot wide when put through down the left. Then a long-range effort from Idrissa Gueye produced a save from Lopes. Next Aouar spurned a great chance for Lyon with an air shot and PSG broke immediately but Di Maria fluffed his shot at the other end of the pitch.

The second half largely followed the pattern of the first, with both teams creating occasional chances, PSG doing so a bit more frequently than Lyon, although neither side produced any gilt edged opportunities that you would say they absolutely should have scored from.

The half was also punctuated by substitutions as the players tired from a lack of match fitness following the long break due to the Covid-19 lock down. Lyon withdrew Bruno Guimaraes first, shortly after he was booked for persistent fouling, to be replaced by Thiago Mendes. Their goal threat was reduced somewhat when both Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele were replaced in the 80th minute by Ekambi and Traoré, and Marcelo limped off to be replaced by Andersen a minute later.

Leo Dubois was another casualty when he picked up a knock in the final five minutes of normal time and had to give way to hapless Brazilian fullback Rafael. Rafael picked up his customary red card in the final minute of extra time when he brought down Di Maria just outside the box. Neymar failed to convert the free-kick and the referee signalled full time and a penalty shoot-out, which took place at the end occupied by the PSG fans.

Starting XI
Lopes – Marcal, Marcelo, Denayer, Cornet, Dubois – Guimaraes, Aouar, Caqueret – Depay, Dembele
Subs: Thiago Mendes (Guimaraes 65), Ekambi (Depay 80), Traoré (Dembele 80), Andersen (Marcelo 81), Rafael (Dubois 86).