Lille 1-0 PSG: Lille win the French Cup with 89th minute goal

May 15, 2011

The starting line-ups

Substitute Ludovic Obraniak netted a lucky/brilliant free-kick to secure Lille’s first major trophy since 1955.

Rudi Garcia brought Moussa Sow back into the side upfront, and also selected Idrissa Gueye in the centre of midfield, in the usual fluid 4-1-2-3 shape.

Antoine Kombouare chose a 4-2-3-1, with Mathieu Bodmer coming into the side in an attacking midfield role. Christophe Jallet was suspended, so Ceara made a rare start at right-back.

The game was reasonably evenly-balanced, with Lille showing more attacking quality but struggling to break down PSG. The overall pattern of the game was slow and cautious.

Midfield battle

As the diagram on the left suggests, the midfield battle was comprised of three 1 v 1 battles in the midfield, as is often the case when a broad 4-2-3-1 faces a broad 4-3-3. There was some level of movement within that zone – Gueye and Yohan Cabaye interchanged positions and took it in turns to join the front three, whilst PSG’s Clement Chantome played ahead of Claude Makelele – to either side, depending on where the ball was. Still, neither side really dominated this zone, and there was little creativity from the centre of the pitch.


A lot of the good moments came when the full-backs got forward. With both sides playing a holding player very deep, they were generally comfortable getting their full-backs high up the pitch. Ceara had a good game at right-back, as did Siaka Tiene, but there was always a slight nervousness about leaving space at the back and becoming vulnerable to Lille’s counter-attacks. Therefore, it was Lille’s full-backs who were braver – although a couple of times this threatened to catch them out at the other end, most notably late in the second half when Guillaume Hoarau wasted a golden chance after substitute Mevlut Erdinc exploited space when Franck Beria got caught too high up the pitch.

Lille strategy

Lille wanted to play on the counter-attack. They had speed, skill and power upfront, but struggled with quick transitions from defence to attack. On the two occasions they managed to construct breaks, Gervinho dallied on the ball too long, and allowed PSG defenders to close down and block the delayed attempted pass. He was probably the main danger, however, Eden Hazard didn’t have a great game after a bright opening, whilst Moussa Sow also found it difficult to get into the game.

Lille played with a clear front three, but they were not always spread across the pitch. Hazard and Gervinho were allowed something approaching free roles, and frequently came inside to form a very close-knit triangle, a little like Napoli. The interplay didn’t always come off, but there was a cohesive feel about the side – when the wide forwards came central, the full-backs got forward to provide overlaps, and pushed PSG’s wide players back. The difference between this situation and that of Napoli, of course, is that these were full-backs rather than wing-backs, and started from deeper positions. The overlapping threat was there, but it was a little slow and easy for PSG to adjust.

PSG strategy

PSG attacked predominantly down the right, particularly through Ludovic Giuly, who ran with the ball at speed. Ceara was also a threat with some long throws. On the other flank, Nene played as an inside-left rather than as a left-winger, which made them narrow on that side. He often seemed to get in the way of Bodmer, who never really had an influence on the game, despite the gap between Lille’s defence and midfield sometimes looking too large.

PSG were also content to play on the counter, which meant that a large section of the game was about both sides being cautious, being reluctant to push players out of position and waiting for gaps to come in the opposition’s backline.

Midfield passing

Lille were probably more promising. Part of this was because of the distribution from deep in midfield. Rio Mavuba generally had time on the ball and could play good diagonal balls to the flanks and shorter balls out to the full-backs, whilst Makelele was pressed more quickly, and a couple of his passes were overhit straight balls. Aside from one stray pass that almost let Nene in, Mavuba had a very good game and also dropped into the back when the centre-backs moved forward.


Garcia tried to change the game from the bench. He removed Gueye, brought on Tulio de Melo, and went for an attack-minded system that was more like 4-2-3-1 or even 4-2-4 – not far off the alternative system favoured by Pep Guardiola last season. Still, the fluidity of the front four players often made them too narrow in attack, and the full-backs looked too tired to gallop up and down the line.

Kombouare also brought on another forward, Erdinc, who played broadly in the same role as Bodmer, and created the chance Hoarau should have converted. The game became more stretched after the 65 minute mark, and PSG started putting real pressure on Lille, who didn’t counter as effectively as they would have hoped.

It was a big call to withdraw top scorer Sow and put on Obraniak, but it turned out to be key – his left-footed whipped free-kick from the right went over everyone and into the far top corner of the net to give Lille the lead in the 89th minute.

Amazingly they was more action – PSG piled forward, Gervinho countered and was brought down by Gregory Coupet, but the goalkeeper saved Mathieu Debuchy’s penalty to prevent it going to 2-0. Still, Lille held on for the victory.


This was about both sides wanting to play on the counter, and therefore both being extremely reluctant to leave spaces at the back. This produced a slightly static game where not much happened for long spells – if it was a snooker match, we would have had a re-rack after the first half hour.

Both sides put on extra attackers late on – this probably favoured PSG, when considering that Lille had looked the better side for the majority of the game, but the final half hour saw a spell of real PSG pressure. We might have expected Lille to take advantage on the counter, but it was Obraniak’s free-kick that made the difference.

Rudi Garcia said: ”Of course, it was a tight game and PSG could have won too. Especially after the first hour. I think they were on top. In the first period, the match was kind of deadlocked. Both the teams were holding their own. On the other hand, the game was really open in the second half. ”With Antoine Kombouare’s coaching, when Mevlut Erding came into play, when Tulio De Melo and Ludovic Obraniak on our side came off the bench, it changed the match. We saw a more attacking Lille team. There was much more space on both sides.”

Komboure said: “We played a great football match. It’s true, it could have been Lille or us that won. As we often say, the final comes down to the detail. Tonight, Lille got the little bit of luck you need to win.”

Luck? Perhaps, but since Obraniak’s done the same before, against the Ivory Coast (see below), maybe it wasn’t such a fluke.

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