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Lyon go five points clear after derby win

Matthew Riding
Bastos 300x225 Lyon go five points clear after derby win

Bastos (C) is congratulated by teammates after his wonder free-kick

Ten man Lyon recorded a 1-0 victory over arch rivals St Etienne in the Derby du Rhone on Sunday to retain top spot in Ligue 1.

Despite having defender Mouhamadou Dabo sent off in the 54th minute for headbutting former Leeds United winger Max Gradel, Remi Garde’s side managed to steal the points courtesy of a second half Michel Bastos free kick.

Coming into the game, St Etienne were unbeaten in 13 games, and many thought this would be the year they would break their 18-year home hoodoo against Lyon. But the majority of the 26,210 crowd went home disappointed, as Lyon extended their undefeated run away to St Etienne with a narrow victory.

This was a crucial win for Lyon, not just because they maintained their impressive record against their local rivals, but the victory meant they consolidated top spot in the table.

A huge part of Lyon’s success this season has been down to striker Bafetimbi Gomis. The 27-year-old, who signed for Lyon from St Etienne in 2009 for €13million, has scored nine times in 14 league appearances this season.

He is arguably as important to Lyon as Zlatan Ibrahimovic is to PSG, and if Lyon are to consolidate their position at the top of the table, they will need their French forward to maintain his explosive early season form.

Gomis, who in the past has been known as ‘Baby Drogba’ for his robust style and ability to lead the line, became only the sixth player to make the 50km move from St Etienne to Lyon. Despite arriving from their bitter rivals, Lyon’s faithful have adopted the 27-year-old as one of their own, and realise how crucial he is to the success of their team.

Although Gomis was at his bullish self on Sunday at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, it was substitute Bastos who stole the headlines (along with Dabo).

The Brazilian has been an integral part of Lyon’s success since he moved to the club from fellow Ligue 1 side Lille in 2009. Despite being constantly linked with Europe’s elite clubs, Bastos has stayed loyal to the seven-time league winners and on Sunday, he proved his worth with a wondrous 25-yard free kick, which ultimately proved the difference between the two teams.

So far this season, Marseille, PSG and Lyon have all occupied top spot, without really nailing down the position. Until now. Lyon have a five-point gap. They have the momentum. PSG have yet to really click this season, and if their talisman Ibrahimovic gets injured, they have very few other reliable players to call on. Carlo Ancelotti’s men also have to distraction of the Champions League. After qualifying for the last-16 stage of Europe’s elite club football competition, PSG midfielder Javier Pastore said: “Of course the Champions League motivates us more (than Ligue 1)”. Those sentiments were echoed by €42million man Thiago Motta, who stated: “We are much more focused when we play against big teams in the Champions League than when we play in Ligue 1″.

Pastore and Motta confirmed what many already suspected. PSG’s players are finding it difficult to motivate themselves for league fixtures and value the Champions League of greater importance.

Not that Lyon will care about that. This is their chance to re-establish themselves at the top of France’s football ladder.

Something You May Have Missed

-With the January transfer window approaching, Chelsea are thought to be bidding to beat Arsenal to the signature of Montpellier star Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

-PSG have rejected AC Milan’s loan offer for Javier Pastore.

-Michel Bastos’ goal was his 50th Ligue 1 strike.

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