Lyon 1-1 Real Madrid: all square in tight game

February 22, 2011

The starting line-ups

Karim Benzema scored on his return to Lyon, but Bafetimbi Gomis netted a late equaliser.

Claude Puel fielded a 4-2-3-1 system, making just one change from the weekend game. Jimmy Briand’s spectacular bicycle kick against Nancy wasn’t enough to keep him in the side, so Brazilian Michel Bastos played instead.

The only minor surprise from Jose Mourinho was at left-back. Marcelo was left out, Alvaro Arbeloa started.

Real were slightly subdued throughout the contest, and the game was static for periods, with neither side really wanting to take the initiative and both preferring to wait for counter-attacking opportunities.

The game was never ‘poor’, but for spells it wasn’t interesting tactically. It was 4-2-3-1 v 4-2-3-1, the game had no overall pattern, both goals had an element of fortune to them, and neither manager conclusively out-tacticed the other. The points to take from this game were minor.

Arbeloa-Ronaldo combination misfires

The combination of Arbeloa and Cristiano Ronaldo down the left  didn’t work particularly well. It was widely assumed that Mourinho omitted Marcelo because he wanted someone more defensively secure in this match, but the defensive nature of Arbeloa actually invited pressure and made Real slower and more predictable with the ball.

It’s questionable whether a side can successfully function with two wrong-footed players on the same wing. The tactical trend of last season was to play ‘inverted’ wingers, but these were almost always used in conjunction with attacking full-backs. It’s a two-way system – the winger coming inside creates space for the overlapping full-back, and the overlapping full-back stretches the play to open up play for the winger.

Real tried to play through Ronaldo, so Lyon made plenty of interceptions in their right-back zone

When you have a winger looking to come inside and shoot (as Ronaldo inevitably does) in conjunction with a wrong-footed full-back who doesn’t stretch the play, you become quite easy to play against. Ronaldo showed a couple of good moments with stepovers, but his only three attempts on goal came from free-kicks. He offers more than simply goalscoring, but despite being a winger, he is Real’s main goal threat and was stifled here. Marcelo overlapping is a key part of Ronaldo’s game.

Real still tried to play down that flank, meaning Lyon generally won the ball in their right-back position. On the other side, Angel di Maria was tucked in, and also wanted to come inside onto his stronger foot.

Lyon defend well, attack poorly

Lyon had less possession but were more of a threat in the first half. They were often wasteful in the final third, with Bastos and Gomis both wasting promising chances. They were better when Bastos switched to the left of the pitch, where he teamed up with the left-back Aly Cissokho in fast attacks – on the other side, Anthony Reveillere remained in position against Ronaldo.

Lyon coped well in the centre of the pitch – they let Real have the ball in their own half, but then pressed when Real attempted to play it into the front four. There was little drive from Real’s six defensive players and hence no ’surprise’ element for Lyon when defending. Mesut Ozil had a very quiet game – he only influenced the play when he dropped deep or moved to the flanks – the chalkboard of his passing shows an almost perfect ‘wall’ (broken by one solitary pass and two corners) across the final third, that he couldn’t penetrate.

Mesut Ozil barely influenced the game in or around the penalty area

However, Lyon didn’t create much from the middle of the pitch when they won the ball, with Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira remaining in position.

Second half

Real were better in the second half when they raised the tempo and moved the ball more quickly into dangerous positions. Lyon looked more nervous when their back four was put into action immediately, rather than having the shield of a midfield four as well.

Both managers changed the game from the bench. Benzema’s strike was his first action after coming off the substitutes bench, whilst Puel introduced three new men, all attacking players, which gave Lyon a renewed attacking threat and pushed them forward for the late goal. Mourinho had replaced Ozil with Marcelo, who played on the left of a midfield three along with Lassana Diarra and Alonso.


A draw was probably a fair result. Neither side played particularly well – Lyon didn’t make the most of their opportunities when they got the ball into the final third, whilst Real simply didn’t get the ball into the final third, with Ronaldo blunted, Ozil quiet, and di Maria fairly average.

Still, it is advantage to Real – 11 of the last 14 sides who drew the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie 1-1 away from home eventually progressed, according to Opta.

Chalkboards from TotalFootball

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,