Olympique Lyonnais got their Ligue 1 season off to a winning start with a 2-1 win over newly promoted Ajaccio at the Groupama Stadium on Friday evening.
Coach Peter Bosz, whose services were retained following an indifferent first season at the helm, was able to name three of his new signings in the starting line-up in the shape of left-back Nicolás Tagliafico, midfielder Johann Lepenant and striker Alexandre Lacazette.
He set up his team in a 4-3-3 formation, with Lopes in goal, a back four of Malo Gusto, Thiago Mendes, Castelo Lukeba and Tagliafico, Pacqueta and Aouar alongside Lepenant in midfield and Tetê and Toko Ekambi flanking Lacazette in attack.
Lyon got off to a fine start and it was their signing from the tail end of last season, Tetê, who broke the deadlock in the twelfth minute when he struck the ball past Leroy in the Ajaccio goal after a smart lay-off by Lacazette. Tetê was at the centre of the early action and he won a penalty just ten minutes later when he was on the receiving end of a clumsy challenge by Avinel.
Lacazette, newly installed as club captain by Peter Bosz, stepped up and confidently fired the ball home from the spot to double Lyon’s advantage and record his first goal of his second spell at the club.
Lyon seemed to be in complete control but only four minutes later there was a characteristic moment of madness from goalkeeper Anthony Lopes as he rushed off his line to collect a through ball but clashed violently with the oncoming El Idrissy to earn himself a straight red card.
Lopes has plenty of previous for leaving a boot, or hip, or elbow on an oncoming forward and his reputation did him no favours on this occasion, although he caught the ball cleanly enough and, in fairness, it was hard to tell from the replays if there was any intent on his part to injure his opponent or even if he could have avoided a collision.
However, Lyon found themselves down to ten men and another new signing, substitute goalkeeper Rémy Riou, was summoned from the bench to face the penalty from Mangani. He was unable to keep it out and the lead was halved.
Shortly after that, Ajaccio’s former Saint-Etienne midfielder Romain Hamouma was cautioned by the referee and on the stroke of half-time he picked up a second yellow card for a somewhat dubious elbow on Lucas Paqueta and was dismissed, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The second period was much less eventful and, although there were chances for both teams, the scoreline remained unchanged and Lyon could celebrate a 2-1 victory that briefly put them at the top of the nascent Ligue 1 table prior to the remainder of the opening round of fixtures later that weekend.
It’s too early to tell how this season will go, but it’s a promising sign that Lyon didn’t capitulate when faced with the adversity of going down to ten men and conceding a goal in quick succession. I feel as though this is the kind of scenario in which they would have crumbled last season and ended up dropping points, so I’m going to take this performance and result as an early positive sign.