French despair as Lyons' home capitulation extends European misery

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Lyons' defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday night has led a national round of soul-searching in France, a nation acutely aware that it has produced just one European club champion in its footballing history.

Lyons' limp effort in their first ever European semi-final has reinforced a view across the Channel that French sides – with the notable exception of Marseilles in 1993 – are too mentally weak to succeed in Europe.

Former France midfielder Emmanuel Petit was one who saw familiar failings in Lyons' capitulation. "Were they repressed by what was at stake? Did they just overthink? Maybe a bit of both. However they paid dearly for their lack of experience," Petit wrote in L'Equipe.

While they were up to the challenge in the first leg at the Allianz Arena, losing narrowly 1-0 to an Arjen Robben goal, Lyons failed to show the same character in front of their home crowd, losing 3-0. "There was no aggressiveness. When you are inferior, you have to bare your teeth," Petit, a former Arsenal and Barcelona player, added. "You have to make up for your deficiency in the game with mental strength."

Lyons striker Bafe Gomis agreed with Petit, saying that the French side had played burdened by "timidity and nervousness."

"We did not want to conceded a goal in the first half," he added. "We wanted to get the public behind us and put Bayern under pressure, which would have let us score. We would have been able to give our all in the last 15 minutes. Sadly, that wasn't possible."

Michel Bastos cited his missed chance after half an hour of the game – with Bayern 1-0 up on the night – as a key moment. "Maybe if I'd scored that goal, that would have changed the course of the match," the Brazilian lamented.

Amid the browbeating, Bayern's impressive play was not forgotten in France. "Even their injured players were running like rabbits on the pitch," said the Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas. Lyons midfielder Maxime Gonalons said: "We were running after the ball and it took a lot of energy from us, physically and mentally."

Striker Lisandro Lopez, who has a reputation for being a tough character, broke into tears at the end of the game prompting Petit to wonder whether Lyons would be able to bounce back as they chase a Champions League playoff spot in Ligue 1. "There could be a mental breakdown that would cost them a lot in the final sprint in the league," Petit said. Lyons lie fifth in the standings, two points behind third-placed Lille, who hold the final qualifying position for next season's Champions League.