Could the impossible be happening?
Lyon inflicted Paris Saint-Germain’s second defeat of the season this weekend, after Memphis Depay’s stunning effort flew past the rooted Alphonse Areola in the dying stages of the game. It was a fixture punctuated with moments of seemingly endless quality – every finish demonstrated skill, timing and confidence before finding the back of the net.
Nabil Fekir broke the deadlock after just two minutes, when his wicked, curling free-kick deceived Areola and nestled into the far top corner. But back came the league leaders, through an unlikely source. Full-back Layvin Kurzawa latched onto a lofted delivery into the penalty area, and blasted the ball into the roof of the net with a spectacular arrowed strike.
Veteran Dani Alves saw red shortly after the interval, after being brandished two yellow cards: one for a lunge on Tanguy NDombele and the second for making his displeasure clear to the referee.
With the man advantage, Lyon pressed for a winner and found it on the cusp of full-time. Memphis Depay may still be remembered for his short, relatively unsuccessful time at Manchester United, but he ruthlessly defied his critics by cutting infield and rifling an effort into the top left corner to steal maximum points for Bruno Genesio’s side.
A video from inside the home side’s dressing room after the final whistle showed the evident togetherness rooted into the Lyon squad, and even though pipping PSG to the title still seems unlikely, anything can happen in the beautiful game.
However, there was a notable absentee for Unai Emery to deal with at the Stade de Lyon.
Ex-Barcelona wide-man, Neymar, was ruled out with a muscle injury picked up prior to the top of the table clash. And his vision, trickery and creative influence was definitely missing from the Parisians forward line, despite the best efforts of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe (before his early substitution after a nasty clash with Anthony Lopes) and Angel di Maria. So far, Neymar hasn’t completed five matches in a row this season, in a campaign that threatens to be marred by consistent, niggling injuries.
But it would be fair to admit that the Brazilian isn’t the most popular figure in Paris currently. His four goal haul in the 8-0 demolition of Dijon was overshadowed by his decision to tuck away a penalty, with Edinson Cavani poised to overtake Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the club’s record goalscorer.
The Parc des Princes crowed jeered Neymar, with stories now surfacing that the Brazilian superstar’s future in Paris is uncertain.
Whether or not another transfer is on the cards, Neymar’s influence on PSG’s title hopes can’t be understated. Despite the setback against Lyon, there is still an eight point gap between the two sides, and it would take a minor miracle for Genesio’s men to lift the coveted Ligue 1 trophy come the end of the season.
Elsewhere, at Bordeaux, the future is uncertain.
The decision to sack Jocelyn Gourvennec came as no surprise, after a dreadful run of just two wins in 15 games culminated in a limp defeat to Caen. However, club captain Jeremy Toulalan’s decision to have his contract terminated certainly would have shocked most.
What may have forced Toulalan into a decision is a video taken after the loss that proven fateful for Gourvennec, where Brazilians Jonathan Cafu, Otavio and Malcom can be seen leaving the Stade Malmut Atlantique laughing and joking around with their partners. This poor attitude towards the club’s dire situation seems to have shocked Toulalan to the point where he unexpectedly departed.
And with the appointment of Gus Poyet to the managerial hot seat, the uncertainty around Bordeaux still remains. The Uruguayan has endured mixed spells throughout his coaching career, namely at Sunderland, Brighton and Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, and his appointment to save the sinking ship at Bordeaux is certainly a risk.
Whether Poyet is capable of guiding his new team to a comfortable mid-table finish, or if they succumb to the drop zone come May time, still remains to be seen.