Real Madrid 3-0 Lyon: comfortable Real victory

March 16, 2011

The starting line-ups

Real Madrid finally managed to get past Lyon, and into the quarter-finals of the European Cup.

Jose Mourinho made one change from the first leg – Marcelo replaced Alvaro Arbeloa.

Claude Puel brought Lisandro into the side upfront, and had Jimmy Briand on the flank in place of the suspended Michel Bastos. The remainder of the side was unchanged.

After a strong start from Real, the game settled down into a tense but exciting contest. Lyon were looking to play solely on the counter-attack, and sat back with two banks of four, waiting to spring breaks.

Real dominate

Real had the majority of possession early on, but this dominance gradually decreased through the first half. Lyon defended relatively deep when the home side’s attacks continued, and Real struggled to draw men out of position and create space for midfield runners. Mesut Ozil looked to break through the defence in the first few minutes, but then drifted from side to side between the lines. When Real did play balls over the defence, they were caught offside as Lyon’s defence stepped up as a unit very well.

There was no obvious strategy with the ball for Real. Cristiano Ronaldo was played in as often as possible, of course, but aside from one blast which was well tipped over by Hugo Lloris, he didn’t threaten too much. It might well have been the case that, like Lyon, Real were also looking to play predominantly on the break, but with Lyon rarely committing more than four players forward, there were few opportunities to exploit space.

Lyon counter

Lyon broke intelligently down the flanks, taking advantage of the fact Ronaldo and Angel di Maria rarely offered their full-backs protection. They looked to play the ball quickly to the wings (though the balls out wide were often inaccurate) and when possible the full-backs got down the line to create 2 v 1 situations. A few balls were put into the box, and Lyon won a couple of corners. Lisandro often dropped off the front into deeper positions, however, and wasn’t in a great position to get on the end of the crosses.

Another key element to the game was its physicality. Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Marcelo and Dejan Lovren all made had tackles, and there were plenty of aerial collisions throughout the first half too.

Marcelo fires Real ahead

The key feature of the first game was how much Real missed the Marcelo – Ronaldo partnership down the left. Arbeloa didn’t offer the overlapping attacking threat down the touchline, and therefore Ronaldo was poor in that game. He had little space to work in, and was often up against two Lyon players.

Lyon often crossed the ball, but Lisandro (and Gomis, in the second half) rarely got to the ball first

It was fitting, then, that Marcelo and Ronaldo combined to break the deadlock – the full-back exchanged passes with the winger and finished after a mazy dribble. It also summed up the fact that Real needed something special to break the deadlock, as Lyon had defended excellently until that point.

Second half

Bafetimbi Gomis came on for Briand at half time, which meant Lisandro Lopez moving across to a high, narrow left-sided position, trying to combine with Gomis, but also occupying Sergio Ramos.

The Real Madrid full-backs stayed at home in the second half anyway, keeping the back four intact, and leaving the attacking to the front four players, with sporadic help from Sami Khedira.

Real wrap it up

The longer the game went on, the more Lyon pushed forward. The more they pushed forward, the more spaces they left at the back – and Real’s counter-attacking became more obvious and more effective. Benzema got the second when confusion in the Lyon defence left him free and through on goal, and Angel Di Maria added the third from a not dissimilar situation.

Lyon had gone 4-2-4ish, with Yoann Gourcuff off and Jeremy Pied on, but Real were comfortable in the second half. Mourinho used his substitutions to rest tired legs.


The start of the game was a tight ‘chess match’ with both looking to play on the break. Both were aware of the other’s intention, however, so few players were committed forward for fear of being hit with a direct attack.

In the second half, Lyon were forced to leave spaces at the back, which played into Real’s hands. That is still when Real are at their most fluent – using the pace and movement of their front four. Ozil was quiet here, which meant Real lacked creativity in tight situations, but the wide players combined nicely with Benzema.

Mourinho still has a 100% record at home with Real, in all competitions.

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