One fixture always catches the eye in France’s D1 Arkema. Paris Saint-Germain versus Olympique Lyonnais. A hard-fought affair usually dominated by the European Champions – PSG sought to turn the tables on their rivals.
It was a scrappy affair from the off. Lyon had the best of opening exchanges but could not take advantage of their forays forward.
Right-back Ellie Carpenter caused many problems for Sandy Baltimore. Easily winning the ball back on the edge of the box with her high press. Carpenter’s efforts were for naught, with PSG effectively regrouping to defend.
From there, the game descended into constant turnovers and questionable passing. Understandable given the high stakes of the fixture. If Lyon won, they could go five points clear at the top of the table. If PSG won they could claim the top spot for themselves.
Alarm bells should have been ringing for Lyon five minutes into the game. Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi cleared the ball straight to the feet of Kadidiatou Diani. Unafraid of taking a chance, the exciting forward attempted a shot from distance. Though wide, it showed the clear attacking intent of the home side.
Katoto Makes the Difference
Rather than try to stifle Diani, Lyon’s lackadaisical defense allowed her to thrive on the wing. As Amel Majri attempted to hold up play, the dynamic Diani wrestled the ball from her. While Majri waited for a foul, Diani threaded a perfect ball through for Marie-Antoinette Katoto.
With Bouhaddi overcommitted on the edge of her box, Katoto was able to knock the ball around her. It appeared Canadian international Kadeisha Buchanan had the situation under control. In her desperate run back to the goal line though, Buchanan tripped over herself. While messy, it was a well-deserved goal.
Lyon attempted to retaliate. Majri surging forwards in a quest for redemption. Crossing a dangerous looking ball into the box, PSG conceded a corner. Christiane Endler dealt with the set piece with ease. The Chilean international appeared confident in the rare event she was called upon.
To worsen matters for Lyon, they were dealt two severe injury blows. Eugénie Le Sommer and Delphine Cascarino were both forced off the pitch. Losing Le Sommer could mark a turning point for Lyon’s chances.
With neither her nor Ada Hegerberg available, Lyon’s goal threat appears severely depleted.
Of Diving and Fouling
Lyon’s best chance came in the form of a weak penalty shout. The delightful Cascarino wove her way into the box but was crowded out by a determined defense. Going to ground, her teammates looked to the referee for a slither of hope but were awarded nothing.
In fact, Maika Vanderstichel deserves credit for allowing the game to flow as it did. Lyon seemed to be going to ground mainly out of hope they would be rewarded a reprieve from a dynamic PSG side.
A Complete Performance
PSG deserve credit not only for their fluid attack, but for their solid defense. Whenever Lyon appeared to be on the verge of breaking through the final third they were beaten to the punch. Ashley Lawrence delivered a spectacular tackle on Nikita Parris. Her precision led to a counterattack which forced Amandine Henry to slide into a last-ditch block.
Ultimately, PSG played like a team who wanted the three points much more than Lyon did. Something exemplified by a hopeful pass up field that looked to have gone out for a throw in. Lyon sat back, content to let the ball run out of play, PSG chased it down and retrieved the ball to advance once more.
“This could be the season the title race turns,” the pre-match commentary theorised.
After this exchange, you cannot help but think the title is PSG’s to lose. Though one slip up will jeopardise their accomplishments, they have their destiny in their own hands. It’s hard to see where they could drop points. An anticipated rematch with Lyon being their most likely banana skin fixture.
Until then, PSG find themselves in an illustrious position. Atop the table and lording it over their decorated rivals. There is no denying this is a deserved advantage. Time will tell if they can maintain their position and finally win a trophy that has eluded them for so many years.