Lyon 1 Spurs 1: Lyon cover their left back, but lose sight of Dembele

With 89 minutes on the clock, Tottenham were heading out of this season’s Europa League. However, Moussa Dembele, with a trademark dribble-drive to his left, then firing a dipping shot past Remi Vercoutre, made it Lyon 1 Spurs 1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

Dembele’s piece of individual brilliance sent us through, but the game was very much dictated by Lyon’s style of play.

Lyon set up and tactics

Remi Garde set up his Lyon side in their usual 4-3-3 with Clement Grenier – as expected in our Lyon vs Spurs preview – coming in for Steed Malbranque.

Grenier was responsible for pulling the strings in behind the front three all night. He created their best chances with his through balls, but set up the opening goal with an accurately delivered free-kick.

What was interesting was the Jekyll and Hyde way Lyon played before and after their goal.

Prior to Maxime Gonalons’ header, they were pressing our backline in possession trying to create turnovers. They did this effectively forcing a number of quick possession changes and then were fouled to win several free kicks that they could put in to the box.


Lyon free-kicks won in the 1st half.

Lyon gave us an early scare with a ball whipped in by Grenier after a foul on the right, but he would deliver their opening goal after a foul from the left. Lisandro Lopez, who seemed intent on try to get Kyle Walker sent off, went down very cheaply out wide. Grenier curled in the resulting free-kick and Maxime Gonalons headed home with Gareth Bale offering little by way of a challenge to put him off.

After the goal went in Lyon retreated in to a 4-1-4-1 formation, squeezing the space up between the two banks of four, with Gonalons sat in the middle for extra insurance. They were content for Spurs to have the ball, recording just 37% possession in the match, and looked to hit on the counter.

Spurs tactics of two halves

Andre Villas-Boas lined us up in our usual 4-3-3 with Gareth Bale starting on the left this time, but that was to change in the second half, as he switched to be more central.

In the first half we enjoyed a great deal of possession, but with Lyon retreating after their goal, everything was side-to-side with little penetration. Lewis Holtby created our best moments when in a short five minute spell he managed to play a couple of good through balls to release Lennon and Bale.

In the match at the Lane, we enjoyed our best attacking moments from the Lennon-Walker combination down the right. We looked to go here again, especially in the second half when Gareth Bale came more central, but this time Lyon had anticipated it. They were dropping Lisandro Lopez in to provide cover in front of Samuel Umtiti, whilst Gueida Fofana also shuttled across from his central role when the ball came out this way.


Lyon cover left back Samuel Umtiti.

This had the effect of creating a block down this right side, forcing the play to our left in the second half.

With Gareth Bale playing centrally, Benoit Assou-Ekotto was left one-on-one with Anthony Reveillere. He was able to get down the outside and cut some passes back in to the penalty area.

Down our right-hand side, due to the additional defenders to cover Umtiti, balls were delivered from much higher. The best chance of the half fell to Gareth Bale, who placed the ball inches past the post after an Emmanuel Adebayor cross from a higher position on the right.

That was very much the theme of the second half; Spurs creating chances from lower positions closer to the by line on the left. Then from higher positions further out on the right due to the additional defenders that Lyon were employing to cover Samuel Umtiti.


Lyon 1 Spurs 1: Tottenham chances created in each half.

Spurs high line

With Lyon retreating Spurs back line were able to press up the pitch higher than usual. The French side were content to soak up pressure, then hitting on the counter attack through the pace of Alexandre Lacazette down the right.

As highlighted in the Tottenham tactics for Lyon vs Spurs before the match, Lyon like to attack down the right side through Lacazette’s pace and wing play. With Gareth Bale playing more centrally in the second half, Benoit Assou-Ekotto bombing forward was often left exposed. Lewis Holtby, then Clint Dempsey, both were playing narrow from the left after the interval and Lyon tried to get in through here several times on the counter.

They were caught offside often though, as William Gallas and Jan Vertonghen were excellent in staying in line.


Lyon were caught offisde often by Gallas and Vertonghen.

Brad Friedel was rarely called in to action to come and clear any balls played through or in-behind due to the great play of our centre backs.

Friedel does like to stay on his line and this was a concern before the match. However, the only moment of drama came when Lisandro Lopez clipped a ball over the top for Bafetimbi Gomis to race after. Friedel thought twice about coming out, then when he did decide to leave his line, he miss-kicked the ball in to the path of Alexandre Lacazette. The winger then tried to go down claiming he had been tripped by Brad, who had pulled his leg away from making a challenge moments before.

Moussa Dembele left open to execute

Gareth Bale may have been the focus of Lyon’s attentions, but Moussa Dembele spoiled the party atmosphere in the Stadium in the dying moments.

The Belgian had been having a quiet but effective game, as he won the ball back, then distributed it forward to Lewis Holtby and wide to Benoit Assou-Ekotto. His pass to the German created Spurs’ best moment of the first half, as Holtby saw his shot tipped on to the post.

However, it was apt that Gareth Bale would find Dembele for the tie-winning goal. The Welshman had been drawing the attention all night. He attracted several Lyon defenders towards him in a position out on the right, where they had been blocking in front of left back Samuel Umtiti.

This left Moussa Dembele with space in the centre and Bale quickly squared the ball to him. Clement Grenier rotated over, but the Belgian executed one of his trademark dribble-drives to the left, leaving him on the floor. He then fired an unstoppable shot in to the corner of the net that Remi Vercoutre could only wave at.


Moussa Dembele is left free by the attention drawn by Gareth Bale.

Dembele’s rasping shot was his first goal since his strike on his debut against Norwich and was scored in a very similar manner. That day he drove to his left, firing a shot across John Ruddy in to the right-hand corner of the net, this one had a similar feel. Game and tie over.

Lyon 1 Spurs 1 conclusions

Lyon had a game plan to press early and try and look for a strike to add to their away goal, so they could play their usual counter attacking game. Last time it was Lyon, But this time it was Spurs who were reckless in giving away free-kicks in dangerous positions. Lyon got their goal and then dropped right off in order to protect their lead.

The French side were conscious of Gareth Bale, but also of us exposing left back Samuel Umtiti like we had done at the Lane. The two factors combined to be their downfall, as they got sucked out to the right in the dying moments.

This left Moussa Dembele with space to drive in to and fire in the tie-winning goal, as it finished Lyon 1 Spurs 1 and 3-2 to Tottenham on aggregate.

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