Nikita Parris and Melvine Malard contributed to an historic Lyon milestone after the club notched 400 goals in the Champions League.
Brøndby IF might have gotten the game underway, but the first half belonged to the hosts.
A chance apiece in the opening minutes suggested the tie might have been more open than first expected. Catarino Macario, making her full debut, saw her early shot deflected over the bar.
Brøndby were gifted an opportunity from a loose ball in midfield. Mille Gejl was played through on goal but fouled by Wendie Renard on the edge of the box. Nanna Christiansen’s resulting free kick hit the crossbar.
After this early alarm, Lyon exerted their strength and skill on the game. Ten minutes into the match, Dzsenifer Marozsán displayed her technical prowess with an excellent chance. Getting her foot under a difficult ball, Marozsán expertly turned it towards goal. A lucky deflection denied the German international the chance to send her team into the lead.
Brøndby’s determination to put their bodies on the line became very literal in the 14th minute. Maja Kildemoes opted to keep the ball out of the net by throwing her body atop it. Lyon’s shouts for a penalty were dismissed.
Very stubborn defending came at the expense of an attacking outlet. Brøndby were sat deep in their own half, not challenging anything that passed the centre circle. Rather than take the game to a Lyon defence who showed early frailty, Brøndby were trying to stop Lyon’s quick pass.
Ultimately it did not work. Half an hour into proceedings, Lyon won a free-kick. Amel Majri’s cross was poorly cleared, allowing the winger to collect the ball once more. Sending an inviting ball forwards, Parris cut ahead of her marker at the near post and headed her side in front.
Though Lyon were the dominant force in the first 45 minutes, Agnete Nielsen surged forward in the dying minutes of the half. Renard charged her down before Lyon could be punished for another midfield lapse.
A More Even Second Half
As if their surprising end to the half revitalised them, Brøndby started the second half with promise. If not for some strong defensive work by Selma Bacha, Nielsen would have been away down the wing. Lyon responded to Brøndby’s compact strength by widening the pitch. Using their dynamic wings to stretch play and create gaps they could exploit.
As Lyon began to dominate once more, Brøndby made a substitution. Rebeka Winther, who had failed to make a mark on the game, gave way to Frederikke Lindhardt.
Lindhardt proved a creative presence that injected new energy into the Danish side. With Bacha also substituted, the left hand side of the pitch became a key battleground for Brøndby. Lindhardt shone here, but would eventually influence the game in a way she would rather forget.
Faced with a more determined Brøndby side, Lyon’s chances were fewer but not without quality. Majri, whose footwork repeatedly left the visitors chasing shadows, spun past two defenders and chanced a long range effort.
From quality alone it deserved a goal, but it ricocheted off the crossbar. Eugénie Le Sommer headed Kildemoes’s poor clearance over the bar. The forward returning to the pitch after being sidelined with a positive COVID test.
Doubled at the Death
The second goal eventually came from substitute Malard. An academy product, Malard has shone during the Champions League this season.
From a corner, Ellie Carpenter headed a poor clearance back into the box. The ball hit the otherwise excellent Lindhart, who slipped and could only watch what happened next from the floor. Janice Cayman collected the ball and provided a perfect pass. Malard, who was in the right place at the right time, tapped it home with the last kick of the game.
Though they head into the second leg with a two-goal cushion, the scoreline should have been much higher. Lyon’s inability to settle the tie in the first half left Renard frustrated. The captain expressed her “annoyance” at full-time.
Attacking Woes for the Champions
“We really lack efficiency.” Renard’s comments echoed the frustrations of fans. Though Brøndby deserve credit for their stubborn defending, Lyon are clearly missing Ada Hegerberg.
Vasseur though, who also bemoaned the scoreline, provided an alternative view that seems to have eluded a lot of Lyon’s critics this season: “People are used to high scores. Teams are getting more organised.” Indeed, our expectations of a team of Lyon’s calibre are high. Eyebrows naturally raise when they don’t match assumptions of them. But do these expectations fail to consider the strengthening of teams across Europe?
Brøndby were set up to withstand a great deal of pressure and for the most part, did that job well. Lyon will hope to rediscover their ruthlessness. Not only in time for the second leg, but for their upcoming, decisive meeting with Paris Saint-Germain too.