Division 1 Féminine had its two top teams face off against each other on Saturday night as Paris Saint-Germain hosted Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Sebastien Charléty. The outcome of this match had many seeing it as a potential title decider this early on in the season and it was PSG who came out on top thanks to a marvelous goal by Marie-Laure Delie at the back end of the match.
Lyon had their chances to get the winning goal earlier in the match and after PSG had scored but poor finishing and some great goal keeping by Katarzyna Kiedryznek kept the three points in Paris and allowed them to head into the winter break on top of the division.
Lyon dominate proceedings in the first half
For a large portion of the first half, PSG had to settle for keeping Lyon at bay and try to stay as defensively compact as possible against the firepower that Lyon had at their disposal. Interestingly enough, manager Gérard Prêcheur decided to leave influential midfielder Camille Abily on the bench to start the game but Lyon were still able to create enough chances to score in the first half.
Pauline Bremer, who was playing as wing-back in Lyon's 3-5-2 formation got forward effectively early on in the game and her cross in the seventh minute was met by Dzsenifer Marozsán in the six yard box but the German midfielder could not convert her chance and nodded the ball wide. Lyon kept pressing and after Ada Hegerberg won a free-kick not far away from the box three minutes later, Marozsán stepped up and produced a good save from Kiedryznek to keep the score at 0-0.
Hegerberg was again involved in the action in the 12th minute when her cute flick around her marker found Amel Majri who broke free and used her pace to form a one-on-one chance with Kiedrzynek. Again the Polish goalkeeper was up to the task and blocked Majri's shot. The rebound fell to Hegerberg but she screwed her effort wide and PSG were able to win a goal kick.
The first chance of the first half for PSG fell to midfielder Verónica Boquete who fashioned some space for herself against Lyon captain Wendie Renard before shooting but her shot was partially blocked and rolled right into the hands of goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
PSG were beginning to find some space for their attackers in the 33rd minute Aminata Diallo played a lovely ball to find Delie running into the space between centre backs Jessica Houara d'Hommeaux and Renard. The striker burst forward only to be thwarted by Bouhaddi who came out quickly to close down the attempt.
Half-time adjustments work for PSG
The half-time break came at a good time for PSG and manager Patrice Lair made some tactical changes to counter the amount of freedom Lyon's wing-backs were finding time and time again in the first half. Those changes worked and for the early part of the second half, PSG remained defensively solid and held off any attacks by Lyon. This made Prêcheur turn to his bench and bring on Abily to try and turn the game around for his team and pick up the three points.
Her impact was immediate and Abily began to turn the momentum back in Lyon's favour. In the 65th minute, she and Eugénie Le Sommer combined well to work an attack into PSG's box. When Abily tried to find Le Sommer with the return ball, it was deflected into the path of Hegerberg who had the goal gaping with Kiedrzynek desperately trying to close her down. For once, Hegerberg's finishing let her down and she fired wide of the goal.
It was not until the 82nd minute that PSG's game plan bore fruit. Boquete got forward on the break and found Delie who was unmarked and wide open on the right flank. Delie drove forward toward the goal and fired off a powerful shot that beat Bouhaddi and landed in the far corner of the goal to give Paris Saint-Germain the lead. It was a fantastic strike and one whose flight fooled Bouhaddi as she thought it was going high over her crossbar only to loop into the goal with her making no attempt to stop it.
Late barrage can't give Lyon the goal they desperately search for
Lyon almost responded immediately to the goal as they won a free kick in the attacking third that PSG failed to clear properly at the first attempt. The ball then fell to Bremer in the box and she could only watch in disbelief as Irene Paredes made a fantastic goal line block to keep PSG in front. Four minutes later and Lyon were on the move again as Hegerberg got to the byline and found an onrushing Majri in the box.
The wing back got her shot off but Kiedrzynek was again up to the task, as she had been all game long, and saved the effort well. Saki Kumagai followed up the play but ended up shooting well wide when Kiedrzynek's parry landed at her feet. Lyon fashioned one last chance in the 88th minute when Renard got her head to a corner kick by Kumugai but the defender nodded her effort wide of the goal post and PSG breathed a sigh of relief.
This win now leaves PSG alone at the top of the table at mid-point in the season and their resolute defending, which had been evident all season long, was once again on display tonight as they found a way past their biggest rivals in what could turn out to be a big result when we hit May in 2017. For Lyon, they will look back at all the chances they had to put the game away and wonder how they did not manage to finish off one of those chances tonight.