Olympique Lyonnais 1-2 Montpellier: Lyon Bear Guests Christmas Gift

Claude Puel's position as manager of les Gones has grown ever more bleak after a disappointing home defeat to la Paillade...
Under pressure to record maximum points, Olympique Lyonnais succumbed to Montpellier at Stade Gerland, leaving them in sixth position in Ligue 1 at the conclusion of 2009.

It was another woeful performance from the home side, who seemed to have the measure of their visitors for much of the first period. Montpellier moved ahead when Victor Hugo Montano sprung to open the scoring minutes after the break, and though Bafetimbi Gomis would draw Lyon level with eight minutes remaining, some abject defending allowed Joris Marveaux to score a famous win for the visitors.

After some insipid performances of late, it was little surprise that Lyon simply wanted to get the ball on the ground and hold possession in the early stages, as if trying to build confidence by playing themselves into the fixture.

Against a resolute and packed Montpellier defence, this made for a rather turgid opening period as a whole. There was some early concern for the hosts when Marveaux was picked out by an Alberto Costa free kick. The visiting midfielder was left unattended in the box and directed his effort into the net, but he had started in an offside position and the effort was disallowed.

It would take 18 minutes for the first legitimate strike at goal to be taken. Aly Cissokho moved down the left flank and aimed a centre into the box that was controlled by Sidney Govou. The France international’s first touch was solid enough, but his shot was wholly lacking in conviction and dribbled harmlessly wide.

Such an effort would rather sum up a first half that also saw Michel Bastos slip as he was about to arrow a free kick at goal and Lisandro Lopez batter a similar chance straight into the defensive wall.

Lisandro has been central to many of Lyon’s best moments this season, so it was little surprise he had the best and only real sight of goal during the opening 45 minutes. This time it was Cesar Delgado who made progress down the left, picking out his compatriot with a decent cross that was headed goalward by the former Porto man, though straight at Geoffrey Jourdren.

Initially after the pause it seemed little had changed, but Montpellier, who have confounded critics over the course of the last five months had one more trick up their sleeve for 2009. Cyril Jeunechamp won the ball on the left hand side and released Montano, largely an isolated figure in this fixture. The Colombian galloped away from the chasing OL rearguard before striking a right footed shot out of Hugo Lloris’ grasp and into the net.

Lyon hopelessly probed for a way back into the game, but they were largely impotent. Even Puel’s alterations failed to spark the beleaguered outfit into any kind of meaningful life, with a couple of hopeful corners the best les Gones could muster in the immediate aftermath of the blow dealt to them by their upstart guests.

Eight minutes from time, Lyon found the equaliser somewhat out of the blue. A corner from Delgado was initially cleared by the guests, but when the ball was pumped back into the box by Cissokho, substitute Gomis was on hand to headed decisively goalward at the back post.

There appeared to only be one winner from this position, and it was certainly not Montpellier. However, Rene Girard’s team exposed yet more hapless defending from their benevolent hosts. A Costa free kick was knocked into the net by Marveaux, who was unmarked little more than six-yards out.

OL failed to heed the warning handed to them in the early stages of the encounter, and now Puel’s job looks exceptionally uncertain. Going into the winter transfer window in sixth place was certainly not part of president Jean-Michel Aulas’ masterplan, and many of the players look hopelessly devoid of confidence and ideas.

Montpellier deserve immense credit for their efforts – they are, after all, lying third – but la Paillade will have to wait for another evening to catch headlines as Lyon continue to toil.

Robin Bairner, Goal.com