July 29, 2012
By Gerry Beatty
VIVE LA FRANCE
Olympique Lyonnaise wins French Super Cup on penalty kicks
HARRISON, N.J.–Goalie Hugo Lloris saved two penalty kicks and striker Jimmy Briand slotted home the coup de grace as Olympique Lyonnaise outlasted Montpellier Herault to win the Trophée des Champions, the French Super Cup. The score was 4-2 in penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie in regulation.
Saturday's match was played at Red Bull Arena, the first time the cup was contested in the United States. The competition has been held in various forms since 1949, but only in 2009 (Montréal), 2010 (Tunisia) and 2011 (Morocco) has it played outside France–an attempt to promote French soccer abroad.
It was Lyon's seventh cup triumph, and the first since it won six in succession between 2002 and 2007. Montpellier has never won the silver trophy, and only last May won the French Ligue 1 for the first time, topping Paris Saint-Germain by three points on the final day in May. Lyon, which finished fourth, took the Coupe de France to set up Saturday's season opener.
"It was the sort of game you get at the start of a season, when we're not quite ready," said Montpellier coach René Girard through translator Matthew Spiro. "The end of the game was tough for both teams because of the heat and conditions. It's the hardest game we've played so far (in training) and a step up in competition."
Montpellier twice led in the match, only to concede equalizers both times. With the score even, it played the last 11 minutes with 10 men, after midfielder Marco Estrada retaliated for contact with striker Yassine Benzia with a flagrant foul and was ejected.
In the shootout, Montpellier goalie Geoffrey Jourdren dived to his left to stop Gueïda Fofana's PK. Lloris did the same to Gaëtan Charbonnier. Lyon's Aly Cissokho and Montpellier's Souleymane Camara buried their shots in the right corner, and Lyon went up 2-1 on Bakary Koné's conversion to the right.
Then Lloris saved Henri Bedimo N'Same's effort toward the left. Benzia went low left to put Lyon up 3-1. Captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa did the same to keep Montpellier alive, but Briand also struck low left to give Lyon an insurmountable 4-2 lead.
The game started on a muggy, overcast day after a passing shower. Montpellier outplayed its rivals in the first half, but still was tied at the break. There were no official statistics, but, unofficially, Montpellier led five shots to three in the first half; Lyon mustered a 9-8 advantage after the intermission.
Montpellier's John Chukwadi, who made several darting runs down the left wing early on, cut inside in the 27th minute, faked out two defenders and lined the ball into the upper left corner from 15 yards out. In the 44th minute, Lyon midfielder Yoann Gourcuff fed striker Bafetimi Gomis from the left and Gomis nailed a 15-yarder in the lower left corner.
Gourcuff was voted the match's Most Valuable Player for his playmaking and received a small cup.
Montpellier reclaimed the lead in the 56th minute. Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons brought down Emanuel Herrera, the Argentine striker making his club debut, three yards beyond the penalty area. Marco Estrada's free kick smashed into the defensive wall and referee Jorge Gonzalez called a handball and pointed to the penalty spot. Herrera neatly slotted the penalty kick in the lower right corner.
Lyon grew more assertive, and in the 77th minute, Alexandre Lacazette made a run down the left side. His cross found Briand on the right for a 17-yard equalizer inside the left post.
Lyon coach Joël Bats cited several reasons for his team's improvement in the second half. Too much emotion early on: "We didn't play with freedom," he explained. In the second half, "an injustice–the referee gave a penalty, which inspired our players." As for the physical aspect, "I think we finished the game more strongly than Montpellier."
Both teams had good scoring opportunities in the second half which went for naught. Gourcuff's 25-yard free kick in the 68th minute was tipped over the bar by Jourdren for a corner kick. Koné cleared the ball off the goal line after a defender's bicycle kick went the wrong way in the 82nd minute. Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette clanged a half-volley off the left upright in the 88th minute, and N'Same made a clearance two minutes later.
Briand said Lyon wasn't worried late in the game trailing 2-1. "We knew we needed to keep pushing and they cracked at the end."
He showed up for the press conference wearing a Brooklyn Nets cap. "I follow the NBA lot," said the Frenchman. I like the Brooklyn Nets."