A look back at Olympique Lyonnais’ visit to the south coast of England in Summer 2019.
Match Date: Saturday 3rd August 2019, K.O. 15:30.
Venue: The Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth.
Less than a week after their Emirates Cup win in London, Lyon returned to British soil for a first ever meeting with Bournemouth. Canadian/Cuban-American duo Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello were at the top of the charts with their Latin Pop hit ‘Señorita’, Boris Johnson was ten days into his reign as Prime Minister, with a parliamentary majority of one over a fractious opposition led by Jeremy Corbyn, the ongoing Brexit negotiations showed little sign of progress, and double winners Manchester City were preparing to face Liverpool in the Community Shield at Wembley on the Sunday afternoon. Down in Dorset it was a seasonably pleasant, sunny day by the sea, with the temperature peaking at 20°c and a moderate breeze.
Lyon had finished third in Ligue 1 the previous season, which was enough to qualify directly for the UEFA Champions League group stage, albeit a distant nineteen points behind champions Paris Saint-Germain. Manager Bruno Génésio had departed after two and a half years at the helm, to be replaced by the Brazilian Sylvinho in his first appointment as a club coach. Lyon had been active in the transfer market, bringing in Thiago Mendes and Youssouf Koné from Lille, as well as Joachim Andersen, Jean Lucas and Ciprian Tătărușanu. This was part of a major rebuilding project following the departure of star players such as Nabil Fekir, Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy over the summer.
Bournemouth were preparing to commence their fifth successive season as a Premier League club, having finished in fourteenth place at the end of the previous campaign. Their major transfer activity had seen them lose Tyrone Mings and Lys Mousset but bring in Arnaut Danjuma, Lloyd Kelly, Jack Stacey, Jordan Zemura and Philip Billing.
The Form Book
This was Lyon’s fifth and final friendly prior to the 2019-20 campaign, and their third against English opposition. Their pre-season form under new manager Sylvinho had been disappointing thus far, with defeats against Servette and Genoa preceding the 2-1 win over Arsenal in the Emirates Cup. Three days later, Lyon lost 3-1 to Liverpool in Geneva before returning to the UK for this fixture. Goal scoring didn’t seem to have been a problem, but the lack of a clean sheet showed that there was plenty of work still to be done.
Bournemouth were playing their sixth and final pre-season friendly, having beaten Wimbledon and lost to Girona during a short break in Catalonia, before a goalless draw with West Brom and a 3-1 win over Brentford, both away. The Lyon match was the second part of a double-header at The Vitality Stadium that saw the Cherries face Italian side Lazio and Lyon on consecutive days, with the Roman outfit having shaded the previous evening’s match 4-3.
The programme was an unusual affair, priced at £1.50 and featuring young Bournemouth forward Sam Surridge on the front cover, it actually unfolded into a large Premier League fixtures poster with eight ‘pages’ of matchday content on the reverse rather than assuming the traditional booklet format.
Bournemouth’s Dutch defender Nathan Ake provided the introductory column, in which he anticipated ‘a good test’ from Lyon and looked forward to the chance to meet up with his international team mates Memphis Depay and Kenny Tete.
Two of the pages were dedicated to to Lyon, with Memphis Depay identified as the ‘dangerman’ and Houssem Aouar as the man to watch for the future. There were also mentions of Lyon’s seven consecutive title wins, the prestige of their youth academy, their all-conquering women’s team and the city’s reputation as the gastronomic capital of the world.
There was a small misprint on the back cover below the squad lists where the referee was listed as ‘Dean Whiteside’, rather than Dean Whitestone, a football league referee and police officer from Northampton, who officiated the match.
Lyon sent out a strong line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation at The Vitality Stadium (formerly Dean Court) against a Bournemouth team who rotated all eleven starters from their previous evening’s match against Lazio. The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges and were the first to threaten when Bertrand Traore had a shot saved and Dembele put the rebound wide in the second minute.
However, Lyon soon found themselves on the back foot and went behind in the eleventh minute when Kilkenny won possession in the middle of the park and fed Ofoborh, who in turn found Callum Wilson with space to shoot inside the Lyon box. The Cherries’ main dangerman made no mistake and fired past Anthony Lopes to open the scoring.
There was precious little joy for Lyon from that point on, and the youngster Kilkenny doubled the advantage eight minutes later, with an assist from Wilson. Bournemouth created several more chances to add to their lead as the half wore on, but Lopes was equal to them this time and Memphis Depay was denied by Ramsdale at the other end as Lyon searched for a way back into the match.
The start of the second period was a tighter affair and Lyon enjoyed a higher share of the possession but were still unable to create many openings of their own. Wilson and King had chances for the home side before Martin Terrier sent a low shot just wide of the post mid-way through the half. Both teams had started to make a few substitutions by the time King effectively wrapped up the game in the 73rd minute, capitalising on some risky passing across their own goalmouth by Lyon to catch Joachim Andersen in possession and tap home from close range.
Lyon managed to tighten up defensively after the late introductions of Tousart and Caqueret, but by then the damage had been done, and they were well beaten by a sharp looking Bournemouth team.
As an indication of how things were to unfold under Sylvinho over the next couple of months, this result was fairly portentous. Taken alone, or in conjunction with their other pre-season results, it didn’t bode well for the upcoming campaign and suggested that the rookie manager was still a long way from identifying his best starting eleven.
Therefore it was something of a surprise when Lyon raced out of the starting blocks in Ligue 1 a week later with 3-0 and 6-0 victories over Monaco and Angers respectively in the opening rounds. Briefly it seemed that Sylvinho had stumbled upon the winning formula, but that was to be as good as it got for the Brazilian in Lyon as he failed to oversee any further wins in the league and was sacked following a derby defeat to Saint-Étienne just two months into the season.
Bournemouth, for their part, made a good start to the Premier League season off the back of this win and they were in the top half of the table until a slump that began in early November, just as Lyon were getting back on track under new manager Rudi Garcia. From that point on the fortunes of the two clubs diverged dramatically. Few who witnessed Bournemouth’s comprehensive dismantling of Lyon on the eve of the season would have predicted that the former would end up getting relegated and the latter would make the Champions League semi-finals.
It just goes to show that a well-timed managerial change can transform the trajectory of a season. Also, that you probably shouldn’t try and read too much into friendly match results.
Artur Boruc (Ramsdale 45′)
Corey Jordan (Billing 60′)
Alex Dobre (Cook 67′)
Sam Surridge (Wilson 75′)
Jordan Zemura (Smith 75′)
Sam Sherring (King 86′)
– – – – –
Houssem Aouar (C)
Kenny Tete (Rafael 67′)
Jean Lucas (Traore 67′)
Pape Cheikh Diop (Depay 67′)
Lucas Tousart (Mendes 79′)
Amine Gouiri (Dembele 79′)
Maxence Caqueret (Aouar 82′)
Goals: Wilson (11′), Kilkenny (19′), King (73′)
Referee: Dean Whitestone