Lyon 0-0 Marseille: A bad reflection of Ligue 1, and a bad result for Ligue 1

March 11, 2013

The starting line-ups

PSG were the real winners, as 2nd versus 3rd played out a boring goalless draw.

Remi Garde was without Anthony Reveillere, so Mohamadou Dabo played at right-back, with Samuel Umtiti on the left. Clement Grenier dropped to the bench, with the more defensive-minded Gueida Fofana starting instead.

Elie Baup was without Morgan Amalfitano, so used the pacey Modou Sougou in his place. Otherwise, his side was as expected.

This was desperately poor – two negative sides apparently content to play out a goalless draw, in a match featuring just three shots on target.

Right flanks

The first period of the game was relatively bright, with both sides threatening down their right flank. Sougou travelled with the ball at speed, worrying Umtiti – who isn’t a regular and looked nervous in the early stages, but eventually grew into the game and stopped Sougou being a constant attacking force.

On the other side, Lyon were also threatening down the right. Steed Malbranque pushed up to play in an advanced position, and also drifted to the flank, forming a nice passing triangle with Dabo and Alexandre Lacazette. The winger caused Jeremy Morel problems early on, with a combination between him and Malbranque creating a fine chance for Bafetimbi Gomis, but like Umtiti, Morel improved as the game went on.


The formation battle didn’t lend itself to an open game. The midfield triangles were ‘matched’ with only Malbranque and Mathieu Valbuena showing any desire to get away from their opponent. Malbranque charged past Barton into gaps between the lines, while Valbuena was his usual energetic self, dropping into midfield to create overloads and move away from Maxime Gonalons, then popping up on both flanks to help Marseille create crossing situations.

Like against PSG, Valbuena’s impact was summed up by the statistics – he created six chances for teammates, the other 21 players created only eight between them. His partnership with Andre-Pierre Gignac looked promising in the first half, especially when Gignac drifted left towards Milan Bisevac and darted in behind Lyon’s offside line.

But the game was frustratingly simple – both sides attacked with only four players. It was extremely rare to see a full-back bursting past a winger, or the central midfielders to rotate their position. With the likes of Lisandro Lopez and Andre Ayew brought back into defensive-minded wide roles, it was a game completely lacking in attacking excitement.

Marseille more creative

Lyon’s passing was more controlled and intricate – they ended the game with 61% of possession and a significantly higher pass completion rate – 82% to 70%. But their possession rarely resulted in clear-cut goalscoring chances, even after Grenier replaced Fofana to provide more creativity in the centre of midfield.

Instead, Marseille were the more promising side on the ball. At the start of the second half, Marseille put together the best move of the game when both Joey Barton and Jacques-Alaixys Romao charged forward from midfield, and played a great one-two that would have presented Romao with a great goalscoring chance, had he not completely miscontrolled the ball. That was the first time anyone other than the attacking quartet (from either side) had attacked – it completely caught Lyon by surprise – if only this game had featured more of that.

And then it was about Valbuena drifting around, trying to prompt attacking combinations to give Marseille the breakthrough. There was a dangerous cross from the left and a couple of great set-piece deliveries – while his general variation of positioning also made things happen – but Marseille couldn’t break the deadlock.


It’s tempting to say this match was a disappointment – but that would suggest there were pre-match expectations of something exciting. The truth is that too many top-level Ligue 1 matches are like this: defensive, cagey and with both sides completely lacking in ambition. Only Valbuena and Malbranque showed invention in possession, only they showed any understanding of the value of varying their positioning and dragging opponents around.

If either side had won this game, they would have significantly improved their chances of topping PSG. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have European and Cup distractions, and have lost their last two away matches to relegation-threatened Reims and Sochaux. They’re not infallible, but neither of these sides showed significant ambition to win the game, which doesn’t say much for their chances of challenging for the title.

With both having lost two of their last six matches, and the form sides in the division being Lille (6th), St Etienne (4th) and Nice (5th), it appeared both were looking over their shoulder, rather than looking to challenge PSG.

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