Istanbul’s Vodafone arena will be rocking on Thursday night. Olympique Lyonnais arrives for a Europa League quarterfinal second leg. Besiktas comes in 2-1 down but the away goal in France could be the difference.
The first leg, just seven days ago, was a hotbed of excitement. Parc Olympique Lyonnais was in full voice, supporters expecting a home win. Five minutes in, the narrative took an unusual turn. The nomadic Ryan Babel scored for the visiting contingent. His Black Eagles had not only a lead in the game but an away goal in the tie. The former Ajax/Liverpool/Hoffenheim/Ajax again/Kasimpaşa/Al Ain/Deportivo La Coruña winger’s early goal dissolved the first half. Match tempo flattened with few chances on offer. At half-time, the score remained 0-1.
Lyon reëmerged a macho, front-footed nightmare. Manager Bruno Génésio’s half-time speech, whatever he said, had an effect on his squad like Popeye’s reaction to canned spinach. Les Gones managed fifteen goal attempts in the second half. Maxwel Cornet and Christophe Jallet’s introductions worked wonders in attack. Yet, the match entered its final ten minutes with Lyon still behind.
Cue the heroic comeback. Corentin Tolisso and Jeremy Morel scored in the 83rd and 85th minutes, respectively, to turn the tie on its head. Tolisso capped a mad scramble in the box from a well-worked free kick routine. Morel benefitted from a horrid mistake by Besiktas’ Spanish keeper, Fabri. The twenty-nine-year-old took the dicey decision to hold possession while edging towards his own goal. Morel dashed in, stole the ball, then slotted home from just centimetres out. Lyon had come from behind to win.
Unfortunately, the contest was marred by a minority of troublesome fans both before and after the match.
The away goal, however, may be pivotal. Besiktas plays very well at home. Performances this season have them topping the Süper Lig table, five points clear of İstanbul Basaksehir FK and leading Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray by double digits. The Black Eagles have been potent scoring threats at the Vodafone, mauling Konyaspor 5-1, prevailing 3-0 in the Turkish cup against Darıca Genclerbirligi, and, of course, the 4-1 result against Olympiakos that put them in this quarter-final. Thus, finding the back of the net before 40,000 home supporters on a European night shouldn’t be an issue, especially with Talisca and Cenk Tosun rounding nicely into form. Tosun has scored twenty goals this season and could easily add to his total.
Despite being 2,500 kilometres away from home, Lyon can’t be discounted. The team have a wonderful player in Alexandre Lacazette, who has stayed loyal to Les Gones despite intense transfer speculation. Lacazzette has amassed twenty-eight goals this year. He likely holds the key to Lyon’s success. An away goal for the French side would make things perplexing for all parties.
Whilst Şenol Güneş usually sets up his side in a 4-2-3-1, this may be the night to make alterations given the competition rules. He should trust his player’s ability to score at home both due to their track record and Lyon having kept just one clean sheet in their last twelve competitive away games. Therefore he can sacrifice some attacking elements to help his defence. Potentially starting with five at the back, or even having three defensive midfield players with one less offensive mid, would help steady the defensive qualities. His team don’t need to attack all night. To advance, they just need one goal with a clean sheet. When said goal arrives, Güneş should think about shutting up shop. Besiktas has shown they can do the job in the Super Lig. With the right tactics keeping Lacazette at bay all evening, the Black Eagles can frustrate OL’s European night.
The contest could materialise into a real footballing treat, assuming supporters behave, with Besiktas either trying to craft an away-goal win or a hellfire scoring bonanza should Tosun and Lacazette be in the mood . Kickoff is at 20:05 UK time on BT Sport 3.