Comment: It's Not Game Over Yet For Bordeaux

Les Girondins’ situation looks bleak, but Laurent Blanc should not yet give up hope of ousting les Gones against the odds.
Lisandro Lopez trudged off the field after Olympique Lyonnais’ Champions League quarter-final against Girondins de Bordeaux looking disconsolate, head bowed and face expressionless. The Argentine, who struck twice as les Gones manufactured a 3-1 first leg lead over the Ligue 1 leaders, certainly did not have the countenance of some who had just shot his side to the brink of the semi-finals; he looked like a beaten man.

Of course, the primary reason for the 27-year-old’s unhappiness is his inability to turn out at the Stade Chaban-Delmas next week, where he would undoubtedly have had a major role to play in the second leg of this all-French affair. Had he felt that Lyon were home and dry, he may not had looked quite so down, indicating that there is life yet in this tie.

‘Licha’ has been OL’s main goal-threat throughout their campaign, though it has been his industry, intelligence and movement that have been most telling since a hat-trick against Anderlecht in the qualifying rounds. Prior to Wednesday night’s match, he had only struck once in seven encounters, fewer times than Bafetimbi Gomis, a €13 million signing who will be the man to replace him next Wednesday.

But that’s not to say that the former Porto ace – Lyon’s record signing, no less – is merely a bit-part of the squad. He is a match-winner, a player who would certainly add an extra dimension to his side’s play in the west of France, but his loss should not be decisive in this instance.

Boasting a two-goal cushion, the ball is firmly in Bordeaux’s court. The last time les Girondins won a league fixture by a two-goal margin against Lyon was way back in 1993-94, when OL were still an upstart side making their way tentatively from Ligue 2. Les Gones have won seven league titles since then.

More importantly, Laurent Blanc’s side are not in the kind of form that engenders confidence going into such a monumental tie. Hammered 3-1 by Olympique de Marseille in the Coupe de la Ligue final, the coach responded by noting that some of his players are simply not performing to the standard that is now well expected of them.

Such problems were evident on Tuesday evening, particularly in the first half. An injury to Marc Planus has exposed cracks in the defense. The experienced center-back provides a calming influence in the rearguard, and the relative rawness of both Michael Ciani and Ludovic Sane was clear without the defensive leader beside them.

But there is hope. The likely return to the team of Planus, as well as linchpin midfielder Alou Diarra, whose suspension enforced absence was also notable, will be greatly welcomed by Blanc, whose team were lacking real direction and defensive leadership. With a solid foundation in place, they can start to worry about attacking.

Going forward, Bordeaux created enough chances to at least draw some encouragement ahead of next Wednesday’s game. Marouane Chamakh gave the home rearguard a difficult evening with his prowess in the air, scoring with a terrific header and dovetailing his skills beautifully with Benoit Tremoulinas’ ability to whip dangerous crosses into the box.

From midfield, Wendel looked the most dangerous threat, cracking a fine shot off the face of the bar, and his shooting from distance will be a tool utilized at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.

Bordeaux have grown famous for their ability over dead-balls over the course of the last nine months, but Lyon restricted them brilliantly from such situations, conceding only one free kick around their penalty box over the course of 90 minutes. Blanc will look for his team to draw more fouls in dangerous areas at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, and as they are likely to take the game to OL, they are more likely to get opportunities from the positions they are most deadly.

Over the course of the last 18 months, les Girondins have shown terrific resilience and a habit of bouncing back when they look least capable. A relative rookie at this level, Blanc now faces his biggest test as a coach. It will, of course, be tough, and progression is unlikely, but Lisandro knew as he trudged off the park at the end of Tuesday’s game that Bordeaux still have a shot to continue their remarkable run.

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