When you start with pretty low expectations, it’s hard for them to get any lower, so with a lack of league form and no points from two Champions League matches the Lille fans who made their way to the Grand Stade Lille Metropole on Tuesday night would have arrived just hoping for something that constituted a spirited performance. In the end a 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich must have its positives, surely?
Rudi Garcia was forced to make some changes due to suspensions and injuries but also made a few tactical changes. Mathieu Debuchy’s red card against Valencia meant that Lille had to find a new right-back. Marko Basa broke his nose scoring an injury time equaliser against Bordeaux, so add centre-back to Garcia’s defensive woes.
The versatile Franck Beria would usually fill in at full-back, but rather than play David Rozenhal, Garcia decided to play Beria in the centre and give Djibril Sidibé his Champions League bow on the right of the Lille defence. A risky move from the former Lille midfielder, the thought would have been to give his side a more attacking edge down the right.
Another tough decision of course came up top; who to play to try to trouble the Bayern defence. Surprisingly, but probably deservedly, Dimitri Payet dropped to the bench and Salomon Kalou and Nolan Roux were teamed with Tulio de Melo in attack. A questionable decision from Garcia.
Sidibé would quickly discover it was going to be a long night facing French international and former Lille youth player Franck Ribery but it was the home side that created the first clear-cut chance. Marvin Martin found Lucas Digne down the left and the 19-year old’s cross was met by de Melo, his header going high and wide, which is where Lille’s challenge ended.
Digne lost the ball to Philip Lahm on the Bayern right, the defender got himself ahead of Digne, then with minimal contact on the German’s back, and just like one of his native U-Boats…dive, dive, dive!
Thomas Muller put the spot kick past Mickael Landreau and that is where the game would ultimately end. Lille did not actually manage a shot on target, and apart from the penalty neither did Bayern. With Lille not showing a threat to the German defence, Jupp Heynckes’ side slipped into 2nd gear, Ribery was removed at half time, and the job was pretty much done.
LOSC’s hope for this game was to find a positive performance, something to build on for the upcoming league fixtures. A team performance was somewhat lacking, but there were some individual successes. Beria played well in the centre of defence and Garcia will have no issues playing him there if Basa doesn’t recover in time for Valenciennes this weekend. Nolan Roux continues to run the line well, he worked hard as usual and looked the most positive of the three strikers on show. The third positive came from the bench.
Since joining from Le Havre Ryan Mendes has already made himself a favourite of the Lille fans, and when he came on against Bayern, again he looked like the best player the home side possessed. When on the pitch he shows more desire, ability and hunger than anyone else on the pitch. This is now something that Garcia can’t ignore and if anything comes from this game it will be that Mendes should be part of any line-up he picks. Play him upfront, on the left, right, centre, it seems it doesn’t matter, just get him on the pitch, and he will do the rest.
Another Champions League campaign ultimately ends in disappointment. It is looking unlikely that Lille will be back in it next season, so let’s hope this group of players have learnt a lot from the three defeats, as they are going to need every ounce of that experience in the coming months.