When Paris Saint-Germain meet Real Madrid in the Champions League in little more than three weeks, Unai Emery’s side will no doubt find themselves faced with accusations that they don’t face enough top-level opposition.
Ligue 1, so the story goes, is without other elite teams capable of pushing the leaders. Lyon proved on Sunday, however, that is a fiction, outplaying the leaders as they stormed to a thrilling 2-1 victory at Parc OL.
The conclusion to the match was thrilling. Down to 10 men after the needless dismissal of Dani Alves for dissent, PSG were reduced to packing every body they had behind the ball and probing occasionally on the break. That was not enough, however, to prevent Memphis Depay sending a crashing late shot into the top corner of the goal.
It was a world-class moment to decide a match of the highest level; an encounter that Lyon justly won.
"We showed the fans that we're not scared of PSG and we played our football," Memphis told Canal+ at full-time. "It was a big game for us and an important win."
Of course, PSG were without the injured Neymar, whose qualities as a difference maker are unquestioned and, indeed, unparalleled in Le Championnat.
However, on the eve of kick off, home president Jean-Michel Aulas argued that he would rather have Nabil Fekir in his side than the world’s most expensive player.
While Aulas has a habit of making bombastic statements, it is remarkable how often they are backed up. It took only two minutes after kick-off for his playmaker to justify his words, sculpting a world-class free kick into the net from a seemingly impossible range and angle.
PSG keeper Alphonse Areola will doubtless be criticised for his positioning, but it took an inch-perfect shot, which kissed the post as it found the net, to beat him.
It was a moment that Lyon’s young side fed off. With an average age of just 24 – 21.5 if the defence and goalkeeper is ignored – they showed immense energy and drive throughout, typified by the powerful performance of Tanguy Ndombele in midfield, whose willingness and ability to carry the ball upfield ensured his defence were never under sustained periods of pressure.
Used to manipulating games at a whim, PSG found themselves barely feeding off scraps on a difficult night. Layvin Kurzawa’s thumping equaliser four minutes into first-half stoppage time was their sole highlight.
Otherwise, they lost Dani Alves to suspension after his dismissal around the hour mark, but more pertinently with regards the Champions League they saw Kylian Mbappe go off injured.
The teenage striker was clattered by Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes in a rare moment that did a disservice to the hosts. The Portugal international was overzealous in his pursuit of a lost ball, jumping carelessly into the striker after athletically dealing with a through ball.
With a healthy eight-point advantage over Lyon, who have moved into second, this was not really a game about the destination of the title, it was a chance for Emery’s side to prove to themselves that they are ready to face Madrid.
Not only did they fail to get a result that suggests they are ready to meet the defending two-time European champions, the performance was a long way off the mark, too.
Lyon, meanwhile, gave the world a sharp reminder that Ligue 1 is not the one-team league it is portrayed. Fekir, Ndombele and Memphis saw to that.