In France, the title race continues to be a tightly contested affair. Reigning champions Olympique Lyonnais and a tenacious Paris Saint-Germain have gone toe-to-toe all season.
Two giants of the game, two resounding five goal thrillers. Lyon set the pace for the weekend and PSG rose to the challenge.
Paris FC vs Olympique Lyonnais
Throughout the game Lyon were bolstered by the partnership of Amel Majri and Selma Bacha. Operating down the left wing, their overlapping runs exposed their hosts’ shaky backline.
Academy product Bacha sent a deep cross into the box which was expertly brought down by Eugénie Le Sommer. With the ball set up for an early opener, Dzsenifer Marozsán cleanly took the chance. This goal marked the German international’s 50th goal for Lyon.Embed from Getty Images
Not long after their first, Lyon had doubled their lead. Amandine Henry opened up the pitch with a perfectly weighted crossfield ball to Bacha who bore down on the box. Though Paris scrambled to defend, Le Sommer’s blocked shot fell to Nikita Parris.
With goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie caught in two minds about coming off her line, Parris lobbed the ball over her for the second.
A win in the Capital
Paris had chances throughout the first half but failed to capitalise. Linda Sällström was played through on goal with a lovely pass but was crowded off the ball. Gaëtane Thiney came out victorious in a midfield battle against Henry. Her path to goal blocked by Wendie Renard.
Before halftime Lyon had their third. Majri was on-hand with an excellent overhead kick. After the break, Parris headed home Marozsán’s cross for the fourth. Renard finished up the scoring with a powerful shot into the top corner. The ball falling to her after Nnadozie unconvincingly punched away a corner.Embed from Getty Images
Lyon’s performance was dominant but not perfect. Though they capitalised on Paris’ sloppy passages of play, they were also guilty of misplaced passes. Here, the difference in quality between the two teams shone. Lyon’s stars provided good cover for each other.
With the pressure applied, all eyes turned to PSG for their response. Their hosts, Guingamp, were coming into the game off the back of a surprising victory against Montpellier. Getting the game off to a quick start, PSG made that brilliant win a distant memory.
Guingamp vs Paris Saint-Germain
From the off, Guingamp were pinned into their own half. A positive start saw Grace Geyoro hit the bar after Sandy Baltimore played a dangerous ball into the box.
Baltimore opened the scoring, with a confident finish slotted past Solène Durand. Unable to contend with PSG’s domineering attacking play, Guingamp soon conceded a second. Kadidiatou Diani setting up Marie-Antoinette Katoto after masterfully evading her marker.Embed from Getty Images
It was a game predominantly played in Guingamp’s half. PSG taunted their opposition with their dangerous build-up play. Springing balls out onto the wings for Baltimore and Diani, the pair were undefendable.
The two combined for the third goal. Baltimore turning provider for a confident Diani header.
The first half demonstrated why PSG have wrestled control of the title race from Lyon. Their efficiency was damning and their play technically wonderful. At times it looked less of a league game and more of a training session.
Reclaiming First Position
Guingamp’s main attacking tactic appeared to be hopeful long balls. Making her 100th appearance for PSG, Ashley Lawrence swiftly dealt with them. Unsurprisingly then, Guingamp’s best chance came down the left wing.
Margaux Le Mouël found herself in a rare position. The ball at her feet in PSG’s box. Before she could shoot, Formiga cleanly won the ball with a brilliant tackle.
The second half was marginally more positive for Guingamp. Some creative passing to escape PSG’s high press showed shades of the team who toppled Montpellier. Not content with three goals though, PSG mounted the pressure.
Diani was ruthless down the right hand side of the pitch. Her technical ability shining with how she found space and danced past the defence. Setting up Sara Däbritz with a chance that looked impossible to miss, Durand denied the attempt with her foot.Embed from Getty Images
Däbritz responded by assisting the fourth of the night. Winning the ball on the edge of the box, the German midfielder slid Katoto through on goal.
There was something of a lull in the half after this point. Guingamp momentarily steadying themselves, aided in part by PSG’s substitutions. Though every player played their part in a brilliant win, the absence of Diani’s creative play was noticeable.
That said, it was her replacement who rounded off the victory. Jordyn Huitema striding onto Katoto’s cross to send it into the roof of the net.
Tense Title Race
This is not the first time PSG have dealt Lyon an early season blow. In the 2016/17 season, the Parisiennes attained a 1-0 victory against the Lyonnaises early in the race. It was the only time Lyon dropped points all season. They went on to be crowned champions, PSG came third.
A lot has changed since then. PSG have a squad that not only rivals Lyon’s consistent champions, but in some ways surpasses it.
Lyon have heavily missed the dominant Ada Hegerberg. Unable to settle on a replacement, this creative drought has been exacerbated by injury. Meanwhile, the front line of Baltimore, Katoto, and Diani has been brilliant on the attack.
Regardless of how the season ends, we are witnessing two of the best teams in Europe do battle in a title race easily overlooked due to misconceptions surrounding the league it is unfolding in. When these clubs meet again in March, the race to first place could be decided in all but name.