French media and fans celebrated Lyon’s surprise win over Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals, with L’Équipe praising Houssem Aouar and Le Monde concentrating on Rudi Garcia’s tactical victory over Pep Guardiola.
L’Équipe led with the simple headline of ‘Fabulous!’ on their front page, while labelling Maxwel Cornet as “Mad Max” after the converted wing back opened the scoring against City, his fourth goal against the Premier League club in all competitions since Pep Guardiola took over in 2016, with Lyon earning a 2-1 win and 2-2 draw in the Champions League back in 2018. “A miracle? No, rather a habit,” wrote Hugo Guillemet in Lisbon.
Houssem Aouar was given 9/10 in L’Équipe’s player ratings, highlighting the Lyon captain’s involvement in the two final goals. “A maestro … the Lyon leader was everywhere: he wandered between the Citizens in midfield.”
Le Figaro gave Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes 8/10 but was critical of Memphis Depay – rated just 4/10 – explaining that “the Dutchman, back from injury, did not have the juice to exploit his immense qualities.”
There was also a video of the scenes in Lyon after the final whistle. Fans celebrated wildly throughout the city, but didn’t appear to adhere to social distancing guidelines, as their team reached their first Champions League semi-final in 10 years.
L’Équipe tweeted that the miss from Raheem Sterling was “the moment that everything changed” after the England forward blazed over when presented with an open goal to make it 2-2. A minute after that miss, Moussa Dembélé came off the bench to score the decisive second and third goals for Lyon. He was widely praised with writer Vincent Garcia insisting that his performance “showed his manager that he was still a scorer and remind the whole of Europe that he was for sale.”
Dembélé was a little more diplomatic in his interview afterwards, telling RMC Sport: “It was a complicated match against a very large team. For a player, there is always a little bit of sadness to start on the bench, but I made a difference. We made the promise to give everything. The spirit of the group has changed, we know that we are a great team. We must not see ourselves too high too quickly.”
The former Celtic striker was a bit more cheeky on Twitter, in response to British pundit Chris Sutton.
Le Monde asserted that Lyon manager Rudi Garcia had beaten Pep Guardiola in the tactical battle, with Lyon “confident in their 3-5-2: three axial defenders, five players in the middle, two attackers. Manchester, suffering in his 3-4-1-2”. The French paper also analysed the Spaniard’s comments in his post-match press conference.
Guardiola also had this incredible sentence: “In this competition, tactics are not the most important.” It is a questionable phrase. Especially when you choose to leave as many offensive assets on the bench at the start (David Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, to begin with). One had to wait until the 84th minute for Guardiola to make his second substitution, even though regulations now mean that he can make five.
Le Parisien chose to look ahead to the semi-finals: “At the end of these quarters, there remains an overpowered favourite in the Champions League, Bayern Munich; a credible outsider, PSG; and two surprise guests, Lyon and RB Leipzig, of which no one knows the real limits. Three of these four contenders have never won the competition, which paves the way for an unprecedented coronation.”
Le Progrès, a Lyon-based publication, were more philosophical in their assessment: “OL deserved to continue their journey. In this incredible evening, we have to believe that something supernatural is happening … football has this magic of making the unthinkable quite possible.”