Lyon Combine Short Passing with Directness to Dismantle Monaco

LyonLyon came into their Coupe de France match against Monaco with a plan. They wanted to take it up to the reigning Ligue 1 champions, to pass out from the back and work the ball towards goal with confidence. Early on, though, it didn’t look like it was the best idea.
Marcal attempted a short vertical pass from the left-back zone, but it was quickly cut off. Falcao pounced upon it and played it straight into Rony Lopes, and the Portuguese winger used that opportunity to cut inside. Lyon midfielder Jordan Ferri wasn’t about to let him go too far, however, and quickly slid in, some might say recklessly, to snuff out any danger. He cleaned up Lopes in the process, not only missing the ball but also collecting a yellow card, and that gave Monaco the chance to whip in a set-piece.

Fabinho did just that, and following a quick clipping motion, the ball made its way into the area. Stefan Jovetic rose above the rest to head it in at the far post, and with that, Monaco had the early lead. It was a nice moment for Jovetic, who has been used sparingly in recent times, but it wasn’t such a nice moment for Lyon. Their plan to pass out from defence, using short balls and precision, had come unstuck, and they would have to be brave if they were going to stick with that style of play.

Fortunately for Bruno Genesio, his players remained committed to the approach. They kept working the ball forward patiently and they never seemed too flustered, even against a Monaco side renowned for their quickfire counter-attack. That led to a passage of play along the right-hand side, which arrived around 20 minutes in. Initially, the ball bounced out for a throw-in, and when there was no way forward, Lyon went backwards. They retained possession by passing to centre-back Marcelo, and when he spotted an overload along the right-hand side, he took the chance to try something more expansive.

The imposing defender lofted a ball into the final third, and with Monaco left-back Djibril Sidibe up against not only Lyon winger Bertrand Traore but also Lyon right-back Kenny Tete, he had to decide which man to track. In the end, he chose Tete, which wasn’t the worst idea given that he was the man to receive Marcelo’s pass. The Dutchman, out wide and hugging the touchline, had to act fast, and with a clever infield header, he did exactly that.

It fell into the path of Traore, and given that Monaco left-winger Balde Keita had failed to cover for Sidibe’s absence, Traore had the opportunity to control the ball with a little header. That wrong-footed Monaco’s nearest defender, the onrushing Andrea Raggi, and Traore followed up with a shot. Raggi got something on it, but it wasn’t enough. The Burkina Faso international’s effort eased into the back of the net, at the far post, to allow Lyon to equalise. They were now back in the game, and after their short-passing approach had cost them early, it had just enabled them to level up proceedings.

The key here, however, was that Lyon built the base with short passing but then did something more direct to finish the job. At the outset, they had a nice amount of possession, but were a little too controlled. Their short passing meant that Monaco could fold back into their 4-4-2 shape in defence and easily nullify any threat. Lyon needed to combine short passing with something more adventurous, and when they did this, they wrong-footed the opposition defence and gave them more to worry about.

That’s how the opener came about: measured short passing before, all of a sudden, hitting a direct long ball to up the tempo and catch Monaco off-guard. The Monegasques couldn’t respond, and Traore scored as a consequence of that. Even for Lyon’s third goal on the night, which was a lovely header scored by Mariano, there were shades of the dual approach.

Les Gones won back possession in midfield, and Tanguy Ndombele worked it out to Traore, who found himself out on the left this time around. The former Chelsea man tried to move quickly, but Monaco right-back Almamy Traore ensured that wasn’t possible. This led to more of the short passing, where Traore quickly fed a pass infield. Ndombele then took over, giving the ball to Memphis. The Dutchman returned the favour and then, with a little first-time pass, Ndombele passed it back to Ferri.

By now, Monaco’s Almamy Traore had started to filter back inside, given that Lyon were exchanging passes in an inside left position. Ferri noticed this and, with a first-time pass of his own, fizzed a chiselling ball out to Bertrand Traore, who had retained the width by staying out near the the left-hand touchline. He had plenty of space due to Almamy Traore’s movement back inside, and after steadying himself, he produced a delightful cross to tee up Mariano.

That gave Lyon a 3-1 lead, and though Monaco later pegged one back, the match would finish in a 3-2 victory for Genesio’s men. It was an impressive performance – even if a little shaky at the end – and imperative to it all was that ability to mix possession with a quick shift in emphasis. Here, for the third goal, the short passing was following by Ferri’s quick ball out to Traore, and that opened up the space for the cross and subsequent strike on goal.

Genesio summed up the victory nicely. “We deserved the win and are happy to have qualified against an excellent Monaco side that had gone undefeated in their last nine matches,” he asserted. “It’s a nice performance considering the six changes we made to the team after the game against PSG. This proves that there is a lot of quality in the team and that we have a good mentality.”

That, in a lot of ways, covered it. Lyon had a tough assignment against Monaco, and due to a combination of their mentality, which allowed them to stick with their method after conceding an early goal, and quality, which ensured they could mix up their short passing game with more direct play, they triumphed against the reigning French champions. Ferri even went so far as to suggest that Lyon put together “a beautiful match,” and really, who could argue with him?

The win over Monaco was indeed a beautiful way to follow up their impressive league match over Paris Saint-Germain last weekend, and with a fixture against Bordeaux next on the agenda, Lyon will take plenty of confidence into that one as well. Genesio will view that as yet another opportunity for this squad to show what it can do, and if they can continue to apply their preferred patterns of attacking play, there’s no reason why they can’t continue their recent run of strong results.

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