Olympique Lyonnais – Paris Saint-Germain: Neymar’s Brilliance Gives PSG The Victory (0-1)
In a game where Lyon did not seem able to do anything but park the bus to neutralize the Parisian forces, they managed to keep this match a goalless draw for a very long time. They had been counting their chickens before they were hatched though, as Neymar rescued PSG with a brilliant late game winner.
Tactical analysis and match report by Simon Piotr.
Busy week for the two biggest teams in Ligue 1 as the clash of the French giants was planned in the same week the Champions League started. Both teams achieved a very different level of success, as Lyon stumbled upon a potential very inferior Zenit St-Petersburg (1-1), whereas PSG booked a prestigious victory against Real Madrid (3-0).
Historically, Lyon deliver great games at home against PSG; they managed back-to-back victories in the last two editions of this clash in the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. They were in very poor form coming into this match though, staying winless in four matches, and having a very hard time progressing the ball in their nominal 4-3-3 system. For this match, manager Sylvinho switched it up, as Lyon played in a defensive 5-3-2 shape, with a very careful approach. The three central defenders at the back were Denayer, Andersen and Marcelo (back in the team). Reine-Adélaïde, Mendes, Aouar, Reine-Adelaide in midfield and the exciting striker duo Depay and Dembélé up front.
Despite an impressive victory against Real Madrid in the UCL, PSG came to Lyon with a very weakened squad. Missing were Cavani, Mbappé, Icardi, Sarabia, Draxler, Dagba, Kehrer, and Verratti, the Italian having to be benched after a little injury against Madrid. However, Tuchel was able to play Neymar, who is suspended for the first two games of the Champions League.
The Parisians lined up in a 4-3-3 system with Marquinhos as holding midfielder alongside Gueye and Herrera, and the front three was made up of Neymar and Di Maria on the wings, and Choupo-Moting at center-forward.
A little resistance from Lyon before PSG’s domination
The first twenty minutes were pretty even, with both teams sharing around 50% ball possession and not pressing very high on their respective buildups. The most aggressive team was PSG, with some sequences were they held a higher block, with a somewhat particular pressing pattern.
Indeed, Choupo-Moting was man-marking Mendes in midfield, while the wingers Neymar and Di Maria were pressing the center-backs. Two main reasons were probably behind this organization; first of all Choupo-Moting was physically the forward most ready to complete defensive efforts, and keeping Di Maria and Neymar higher allowed them to be potentially found in good and advanced positions when the ball was recovered.
PSG’s 4-3-3 shape would turn into a diamond 4-4-2 diamond setup to press Lyon’s buildup.
After 25 minutes or so, Lyon looked exhausted and not able to keep up with the tempo that had been laid out by the guests. PSG took advantage of that, going on to completely dominate the rest of the game. From that moment on to the end of the first half, PSG had more than 80% ball possession!
In terms of level of play, this sequence might the best PSG had played since the beginning of the season in Ligue 1. The possession was huge, the counterpressing After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. left Lyon no oxygen, and everyone delivered technically (93% pass success). PSG had an offensive animation with the midfielders Gueye and Herrera very wide to help the wing-backs, while the wingers would tuck in and remained close to Choupo-Moting.
At the heart of this positive sequence was one man: Di María. The Argentinian would regularly switch position with Choupo-Moting and he was exceptional on every ball he played. It got to the point that PSG spent more time playing on his side than on the side of Neymar. Playing through the right was also made easier by Aouar’s lacking defensive presence, while Lyon obviously would put more density around Neymar.
PSG’s 4-3-3 set-up with an offensive animation mostly through the wings, almost no central play. Like against Madrid, Di Maria was the man of the first half despite the presence of Neymar.
PSG created some good situations and took nine shots during this period, but you could feel the absence of a real striker inside the box (Choupo-Moting is more of a second striker / left winger and not a good goalscorer at all) and the score remained 0-0. Surely, PSG will be counting on Cavani and Icardi to reward those sequences with goals in the future.
Lyon had a few shots, but all of them from outside of the box and as Tuchel said after the game, PSG controlled Lyon’s offensive transitions very well throughout the game.
Neymar saves the day for PSG
The tactical patterns remained the same for the second half. Lyon did not change their plan and showed no reaction despite a very good chance around the 50th minute on a cross with Aouar volleying the ball above the bar. It was just an isolated alert for PSG who were still dominating more than 60% of the ball possession with the same kind of offensive sequences.
However, the fatigue from the UCL games were affecting both teams, meaning the tempo of the game decreased. PSG were still able to create chances on a regular basis and Neymar finally became the center of gravity of the team. The entrance of Verratti minute 72 also brought the technical touch Herrera would not really ad to the mix. However, with time winding down, the game was slowly creeping towards a 0-0 ending.
Sylvinho, Lyon’s Brazilian coach, was about to win his ultra-defensive football bet. His former player Neymar (Sylvinho was assistant to Tite at Brazil’s national team) stood in the way of a draw, however.
In the 87th minute, Verratti found Di Maria, who deviated the ball towards Neymar. With his back to goal, receiving the ball on his weaker foot and in the middle of three opponents, Neymar somehow got past all these defenders and scored a wonderful goal with his left foot. This exploit speaks volumes about Neymar’s talent, resilience and personality, as it is the second time in the space of two games that he saves victory for PSG with a late screamer.
After a mediocre series of results, Lyon did not take advantage of this game to get back on tracks. They usually cause PSG a lot of problems in their recent stadium (three victories for one defeat before this game) but their level of form is currently too poor to beat a team like Neymar’s PSG.
Once again, PSG got saved by Neymar, yet the collective production was positive enough to consider that it was deserved victory even though the only goal was scored late in the game with the genius of one man. Tuchel’s side ends a crucial week for the first part of the season with positive results and carries on his recent progression.
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