Another “Netflix scenario” to conclude a “historic” Lyon season in apotheosis

At OL Park,

One minute in nine months of competition. Olympique Lyonnais, which proclaimed its ambition to return to the Champions League at the launch of this season, only occupied sixth place, synonymous with qualification for the Europa League, for one minute out of 34 Ligue 1 days. news for Alexandre Lacazette’s gang is that it happened at 10:55 p.m. on Sunday, at the end of added time in the final multipilex of the championship.

A penalty from the inevitable OL striker (19 goals in L1 this season) allowed his team to overcome Strasbourg (2-1, 90th+6), and beat Lens (7th), who were found in the Europa Conference League. Furious madness when we think back to three stats making Lyon’s feat “historic”, as players and staff insisted after the match:

  • On December 6, 2023, OL are 18th with 7 points, including one victory for nine defeats in 14 days of Ligue 1, which makes them statically condemned to Ligue 2.
  • At the end of January 2024, after 19 days, OL are still in the roadblock (16th), 14 points behind 6th (Reims). No team in the elite had (obviously) achieved the feat of becoming European from so far away.
  • Since he replaced Fabio Grosso at the end of November, Pierre Sage has scored 46 points with OL in Ligue 1, a (championship) pace of 2.09 points on average that only Luis Enrique’s PSG has maintained.
Alexandre Lacazette lets his rage explode, after scoring the penalty synonymous with direct qualification for the Europa League against Strasbourg (2-1, 90th + 6).– OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

“Mr. Prud’homme, the players are all rubbish”

Questioned by Free Ligue 1 on Sunday, OL general manager Laurent Prud’homme said he was marked by the spanking suffered in Marseille (3-0), for his first match in his new role on December 6: “Jean- Pierre Papin was sitting next to me and he said to me “Mr. Prud’homme, the players are all rubbish, you are going to Ligue 2 directly”. There, I wondered if I hadn’t done something stupid.” It was rather JPP who said one, since OM concludes its season outside the Europe zone, unlike Lyonnais who can also win their first title since 2012, with the final of the Coupe de France on Saturday against PSG .

But to get there, OL experienced its share of “craziness” (the word most cited by the players on Sunday evening), with epic successes in the return phase, notably in Toulouse (from 2-1 to 2- 3) and Lille (2-0 to 3-4), or against Brest (1-3 to 4-3) and Monaco (0-1 to 3-2). Rebelote on Sunday since it took a hell of a new alignment of planets to send Lyon into the second most prestigious European Cup.

  • At half-time in the Ligue 1 multiplex, RC Lens quietly leads 2-0 and almost locks in its 6th place synonymous with the Europa League.
  • In the 77th minute of play, while OM (8th) had just doubled the lead in Le Havre (0-2), Lyon conceded a penalty, a quarter of an hour after being caught in the score (1-1). ). If Emanuel Emegha scores, OL completely loses its 7th place and the Europa Conference League.
  • The Strasbourg striker finds the amount of Anthony Lopes and Lyon remains alive. The success of OM in Le Havre (1-2) becomes useless, and thanks to Lacazette’s “clutchless” penalty, OL overtakes Lens, joined in the score to everyone’s surprise by the MHSC after an improbable blunder by Adrien Thomasson (2-2, 75th).

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“We were dead and buried”

A precious man in the shadows like Laurent Prud’homme, sports director David Friio summarizes in his own way this recovery in a year 2024 which will be a landmark.

Even if you write a script for Netflix, you can’t invent this one. We were dead and buried after 14 days. And there, we qualify for a European Cup. It’s a disaster that turns into a dream. In recent weeks, there have been incredible scores, comebacks, 4-3s, 3-2s. There was an awareness, a transfer window was achieved, osmosis and emulation between the old and new players in the locker room. Pierre Sage is very intelligent and he brought calm. »

The name of the main hero of this Lyon miracle is released. At 45, the former director of the OL training center jumped on the chance of a lifetime to revive a moribund and harmless squad. Alexandre Lacazette tells us more about his decisive methods to put the former red lantern of Ligue 1 back on track. “Each time, our goals were within our reach, and that’s when coach Pierre Sage was good, says the former Gunner, who evokes “the most beautiful season for OL since the seven league titles”. He talked to us about maintaining rather than Europe when we were at the bottom, it was intelligent. We set ourselves goals that we believed in. »

At this rate, an additional month of competition and the Champions League was squarely in the sights… “We could have had an easy match against Strasbourg and we fell back into our usual scenarios, making it spectacular,” notes Pierre Sage. But hey, it’s the story of our season, and in the end, it’s even better this way. »

Sage confirmed as coach next season

The 57,027 spectators, in a trance after the penalty missed by Emegha, validated. Habib Beye’s former assistant at Red Star can rest assured, he will be on the Lyon bench next season for the club’s return to the European scene since the 2021-2022 season. We first learned about it with a joke from a delighted John Textor, when he showed up shortly after 12:30 a.m. in the mixed zone with a ramekin filled with grapes (then a can of beer).

Interrupted by a strange cry in the aisles of Parc OL, the American owner slipped, smirking: “It’s Pierre Sage, he’s just discovered that we were going to keep him.” It didn’t take long for him to continue more seriously: “Of course Pierre remains our coach, how can you still ask yourself this question? We will see how to make this official after the Coupe de France final. No one at the club thought of another coach.”

After congratulating his double scorer of the evening Alexandre Lacazette, John Textor confirmed the astonishing Pierre Sage in his role for next season.
After congratulating his double scorer of the evening Alexandre Lacazette, John Textor confirmed the astonishing Pierre Sage in his role for next season.– OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

An obviously logical choice as the face of this team no longer has anything to do with the routs suffered in 2023 under Laurent Blanc and Fabio Grosso. “Everyone rightly buried us in the first part of the season, and there we wrote history,” smiles Maxence Caqueret, very moved. This is my most beautiful, most touching season. » For him too, the number one person in charge is called “Stone Wise”: “Pierre brought his simplicity, that’s what changed everything. He gave everyone the pleasure of playing football again. He’s an incredible coach.”

“The players started to believe it”

It’s simple, even when he is glued to the end of the bench like on Sunday, the fiery Gift Orban does not hesitate to jump into the arms of his coach at the final whistle. Yet another symbolic proof that staff and players have been able to create a particularly rare and exciting alchemy in French professional football. And the public perceived it well, as evidenced by the average attendance of more than 45,000 spectators throughout this season of extremes.

“The players started to believe in it and win games that we weren’t supposed to win,” suggests John Textor. Among them, even a Corentin Tolisso who was totally overwhelmed during the first leg will prove valuable in 2024. “Coming back to the club, I didn’t think I would experience the emotions that I experienced at the start of the season,” admits the 2018 world champion on Free Ligue 1. But in the end, I would do it again every day to have this emotion today. » There is still one match left, and not just any match, with this Coupe de France final against PSG in Lille on Saturday (9 p.m.), to try to take this season to another dimension.

OUR FILE ON OL

“The objective on Saturday is to make this season Historic, this time with a capital H,” summarizes Pierre Sage. Before thanking “everyone for accepting him after a difficult start”, the facetious John Textor said to the press on Sunday: “A team of this quality cannot be relegated”. A nice reference to his media outing which we castigated at the end of October, after a frightening defeat against Clermont (1-2), and a total of 3 points after nine days. My badJohn.

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