Toko Ekambi decisive in unconvincing win

Lyon returned to winning ways on Sunday with a narrow victory over Strasbourg to earn a much needed three points that lift them into the top half of the Ligue 1 table. It was a topsy-turvy match that looked to be all over before the interval, only for Strasbourg to fight back and give Lyon a late scare.

New signing Lucas Paqueta was handed a debut in midfield in a 4-3-3 formation with Memphis Depay operating as the central striker flanked by Karl Toko Ekambi and Tino Kadewere. It was an attacking setup that brought immediate dividends, finally ending Lyon’s long run without a goal in open play from an attacker.

Depay, as ever, was at the centre of all Lyon’s best moves and he was a constant source of problems for the Strasbourg defence. It was the Dutchman’s through ball that released Kadewere in the twelfth minute and the Zimbabwean striker eagerly fired home his first ever Ligue 1 goal with a low shot from the edge of the box, although goalkeeper Bingourou Kamara should really have saved it.

The second goal was again served up on a plate by Depay, and this time the beneficiary was Cameroonian striker Karl Toko Ekambi, who raced into the six-yard area to hammer home Depay’s sumptuous cross from the right wing in the 26th minute. Ekambi was once again in the right place to apply the finish to another Lyon attack as the first half drew to a close. This time Depay latched on to a great through-ball from Thiago Mendes but couldn’t quite engineer a shooting opportunity for himself as he was forced wide by the goalkeeper before finding Ekambi to slot home from close range.

At that point the result looked like a foregone conclusion, but it’s never that simple with Lyon these days. They contrived to give away a goal just a minute later when Anthony Lopes could only parry a shot into the path of Strasbourg substitute Habib Diallo, who made no mistake when presented with an open goal. Ten minutes after the interval Lyon were pegged back to 3-2 when Jean-Eudes Aholou found the net for the hosts. Lopes had just produced a fine save but Denayer was unable to to clear the ball to safety and suddenly Strasbourg were right back in the game.

Moussa Dembélé came off the bench and should have wrapped the game up when he intercepted an ill-judged backpass from Jean-Ricner Bellegarde to find himself one-on-one with the ‘keeper, but he tried to go round him and went too wide, allowing the retreating defender to block his eventual shot.

It was a nervous last half hour for Lyon as they tried to hang onto their lead. There was a debut for defender Mattia De Sciglio, on for Leo Dubois at right-back, and the Juventus loanee was immediately forced to make a vital tackle as last man to thwart a Strasbourg attack. His timing was impeccable as he just got a foot on the ball to take it away from his opponent at full stretch when any error would have lead to a certain red card.

Both teams had further chances to alter the score, but in the end Lyon were just about worthy winners and will hope to back this result up when they face a similarly struggling Monaco next time out.