This was always going to be a closely fought affair, with Lyon having an impressive record against Real Madrid, and with the Spanish side hoping to avoid being knocked out at this stage of the competition for the seventh time in seven seasons. Both teams seemed content with a counter-attacking approach, and the game could quite easily have ended scoreless but for Mourinho changing the game with the particular introductions of substitutes Benzema and Marcelo.
How they lined up
Real Madrid: 4-2-3-1
Mourinho started with a bold 4-2-3-1, with Adebayor chosen ahead of Benzema to lead the attack despite the former Lyon player’s hat-trick last time out in the competition. The more conservative Arbeloa was selected ahead of Marcelo at left back, but apart from that, there were no other surprises.
Lyon adopted a 4-2-3-1 with Toulalan the deepest of the midfielders, providing a defensive shield at times with Kallstrom and pressing the space in which Ozil and di Maria in particular were seeking to operate. Bastos started on the right and Delgado the left, but the pair switched wings very early after Ramos was cautioned, knowing that the Brazilian’s pace could commit Ramos for a second time. Cissokho and Reveillere started at fullback, with the former the more ambitious of the two, getting forward in support of the midfield and lone striker Gomis.
Lack of ambition from both sides in first half
You could see why Lyon hadn’t conceded a goal at home for two months, as they imparted a traditional zonal marking system, squeezing the space once Madrid entered their half of the field (resulting in a number of fouls in quick succession awarded by referee Wolfgang Stark). What was also notable was how Lyon forced Real Madrid infield as much as possible, seeking to nullify the threat from wide. Ronaldo, Di Maria and Ozil all like to exploit the wide areas, working across the final third, interchanging positions, linking with the fullbacks who are crucial to this sytem; but their approach play was disjointed (see ‘attempted take-on’ statistics for half-time and at 90 mins below) simply because Lyon work expertly off the ball, whilst and Arbeloa and Ramos seemed hesitant to get into attacking positions.
Adebayor thus seemed a little isolated in the first half as Ronaldo’s threat was snuffled out by Reveillere, often in tandem with Toulalan; The latter player marshaled the midfield superbly, hovering in the space just in front of the defence but also pressing in and around the halfway line as the image shows, stopping attacking moves at their initiation.
1.Toulalan 7/7 successful interceptions.
2. Real Madrid 5 attempted ‘take-ons’ in 1st half.
Lyon, too, seemed unsure in the final third, and Gourcuff seemed to dwell too long at times on the ball, meaning that when he finally received the ball, Gomis was immediately closed down. Gourcuff was watched by Alonso on a number of occasions, the Spaniard sitting slightly deeper than Khedira for much of the game; Gourcuff was however a threat from set pieces, as both his in-swinging corners and freekicks were causing trouble for the Madrid defence.
Lyon nearly opened the scoring after a great counter attack, coming from a Madirid corner; Gomis played in Bastos down the left whose return pass landed at Gomis’ feet via a Casillas error – but the Real goalkeeper did excellently to tip over.
It was clear that Madrid were pressing far higher up the pitch in the second half after a sloppy first half. Bastos, who had switched back to the right hand side, received a booking on 48 mins for leaving a foot in on di Maria and from the resulting freekick Ronaldo’s thunderbolt rebounded off the inside of the post. Ramos then headed against the bar soon after from an Ozil corner, signalling Madrid’s intent and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Lyon’s high intensity pressing game continued, eliciting a bank of five and a bank of four behind Gomis for Madrid to penetrate; this was a dangerous tactic however, as the away team were evidently more ambitious, and Ramos and Arbeloa were taking their chances to join the attack; Ronaldo was coming deeper to get the ball, seeking to run at the opposition and Alonso, who completed over 90% of his passes, seemed to be looking for Ozil whenever he could – the youngster’s diligent movement across the pitch, starting from a central point and making his way out to the wide areas demanding the ball, was exemplary (see image).
Ozil movement across the pitch
Mourinho’s bold approach to the game was once again underlined as he replaced Aderbayor with Benzema just past the hour mark, where perhaps a more conservative coach would have chosen to bolster the central areas. Even Jose could not have predicted the result however, as after 40 seconds Benzema put Madrid ahead with his first touches of the ball. It was no surprise that the opening goal came from the wide left position as Ozil joined Ronaldo and Benzema in harrying the Lyon defence causing them to make the defensive lapse. Ozil collected the ball and set off on a mazy dribble taking it past Gourcuff with ease; Ronaldo then fed Benzema, who dummied Cissokho brilliantly and calmly slotted home.
Cissokho sought to make amends thereafter as he joined the attack linking with Bastos very well. As Lyon pushed in search of the equalizer they were vulnerable to the counter but the presence of another substitute Diarra, worked well alongside Alonso. It was Mourinho’s decision to replace Ozil with Marcelo on 75 mins however that didn’t quite pay off; Tasked with hustling for the ball in unison with Diarra, it was the Brazilian’s slightly impetuous challenge on substitute Briand on 83 mins that led to the freekick from which Lyon capitalised. Gourcuff chose the wrong option, directing the ball at goal with pace; but it flicked off the wall fortuitously into the path of Cris, who headed the ball to Gomis to finish neatly on the volley. For the final 10 minutes of the game, Lyon were finally playing like the home side.
Real Madrid attempted ‘take-ons’ in 2nd half, a marked improvement.
Both sides will be content with a draw, though Mourinho will be disappointed in the manner in which they conceded from a set piece after taking the game to Lyon in the second half. His introduction of Benzema was inspired, but the same can’t be said of his choice of Marcelo to replace Ozil in central midfield. Claude Puel will be happy with the way his side showed great energy and commitment off the ball, and their ambition in wide areas of the field at certain times of the game. But it is advantage Real going into the second leg, as an expectant Bernabeu awaits.