Lyon lifted the first cup of the season with a penalty shoot-out win over the French Champions Montpellier after the Trophee des Champions finished 2-2 in New York City. After Alexandre Lacazette missed a gilt edged chance to win the game late on it was goalkeeper Hugo Lloris who stepped up to be the hero saving two penalties as Lyon won the shoot-out 4-2. The bad news for Remi Garde’s men is that the TDC winners very rarely lift Le Championnat.
Although the rain lashed down during the warm-up, as the game kicked off both sides were bathed in Jersey sunshine. Unfortunately it seemed the New York City natives had chosen to enjoy the sunshine elsewhere, as the game kicked-off it looked like less than 5,000 people had turned on to watch the Ligue 1 sides do battle.
Three of Rene Girard’s new signings started the game with Daniel Congre at right-back, Anthony Mounier at right-midfield and Argentine Emanuel Herrera upfront. The formation was the familiar 4-2-3-1 that Girard used to great effect last season. Lyon with no new signings to parade had a familiar looking side, even though some big names were missing from the team.
With a lack of atmosphere coming from the stands the game seemed to take quite a while to get into any kind of rhythm, chances were few and far between. That was until the power of cult hero John Utaka paid off for La Paillade. He received the ball from Remy Cabella, bundled his way past three Lyon defenders before cutting inside onto his right-foot and his shot found the top corner. After a quiet 27 minutes the crowd finally had something to cheer.
Montpellier would be denied the half time lead through Bafetimbi Gomis, but all the praise must go to Yoann Gourcuff. He would later be named the game’s MVP and throughout he showed signs that the old Gourcuff could be making his return to Ligue 1. Drifting down the left flank the former Bordeaux playmaker curled in a beautiful left footed cross and Gomis was on hand to apply the precise header past Geoffrey Jourdren.
The second half was a much better spectacle, more fans had managed to get through the traffic problems and they were given a much better show. Only ten minutes in and Montpellier regained the lead. Chilean international Marco Estrada’s free-kick struck the arm of Bafé Gomis and MLS referee Jorge Gonzalez pointed to the spot. It looked a harsh decision; it would have been very hard for Gomis to move his hand away from the ball. Herrera stepped up to the spot and tucked away his penalty, five goals in four games represents an excellent pre-season for the new recruit.
Gueida Fofana would go close for Lyon, flashing a shot over the bar from just outside the box and then with just over 20 minutes to go Lyon’s pressure would pay off. Alexandre Lacazette sporting his new #10 jersey would cross from the right, Jimmy Briand was free at the back post and his first time volley provided an excellent equaliser.
Things would only get more heated. 17-year old starlet Yassine Benzia would come on and show glimpses of his undoubted talent, then Estrada would give him a formal welcome to Ligue 1 by sticking his studs into the youngsters foot, the Chilean looked up to see Gonzalez brandish the red card.
Into injury time and Lyon could have won the game when Jimmy Briand did superbly well to find Lacazette alone in the box, but the forward missed the target from six yards and we were going to penalties.
Facing constant transfer rumours and talk about his future it was almost written that Hugo Lloris would be the hero. In what could possibly be his last game for Lyon the French international captain would save from Gaetan Charbonnier and Henri Bedimo and watch on as Jimmy Briand scored the winning penalty. Lyon wins the first silverware of the season, the ideal build up for Remi Garde’s young side as they prepare for the new season.
The game was marred by discussing over the merits of having this game in New York City. Was it too much, too soon for Ligue 1’s growing brand, was it a case of bad timing and bigger fixtures in the surrounding area. Was it basically an excuse for the LFP to wine and dine in New York? At the end of the day hopefully the 10,000 or so fans that entered Red Bull Arena went away enjoying a pretty good game.