Lyon 3 - 1 Ajax (4-5): match report
Lyon players lay sprawled on the turf as the referee blew his whistle to signal that Ajax will face Manchester United in the Europa League final. Alexandre Lacazette was on his back, shirt pulled over his face. In the background, the young Ajax team that has enchanted Europe this season jumped and roared in front of their travelling fans, as much in relief as celebration. Lyon gave them a severe scare
The large contingent of Dutch supporters will have one more trip to foreign soil this season - to Stockholm, where Mourinho's Manchester await.
The Lyon fans held up an imposing display before the match: a malevolent, seated figure flanked by two roaring lions. The French crowd were vociferous, but it felt like their support was motivated by hope rather than expectation. Ajax were firmly in the driving seat following a 4-1 victory in the first leg in Amsterdam.
The Dutch side slipped seamlessly back in to the rhythm of play that delivered such a commanding first-leg win. Younes and Traoré provided width on either side of 19-year-old Kasper Dolberg. In defence, Davison Sánchez was imperious. Peter Bosz' side exhibited the fluid pass-and-move style that Rinus Michels instilled decades ago. That philosophy still courses through the veins of Ajax.
On 27 minutes, Dolberg made their dominance count. Onana launched a quick goal kick forward, catching the Lyon defence off guard. A swift one-two with Younes, and Dolberg was bearing down on goal. He finished with grace, delicately chipping the ball over the onrushing Lopes. The Danish sensation had already displayed intelligent link-up play, and savvy movement. He has to be talked about in the same breath as Marcus Rashford and Kylian Mbappé.
Lyon looked crestfallen. They had a mountain to climb, but that away goal in Amsterdam provided a faint, flickering glimmer of hope. That glimmer became a little brighter after 42 minutes, as Lacazette accelerated towards a loose ball marginally faster than De Ligt. The French striker got a touch to the ball, and drew a foul from the 17-year-old defender. The Polish referee pointed to the spot. Lacazette hauled himself up, and scored, straight down the middle.
Lyon's bearded poacher rushed in to the net to collect the ball and gallop back to the half way line. He did not have to wait long to double his tally. Two minutes later Fekir, consistently elusive in the number 10 role, shimmied on to his right foot and flashed a low cross beyond the diving Onana. Lacazette scuffed the ball, but the net rippled. The game was afoot.
The match became scrappy as the minutes ticked by in the second half. Petty fouls punctuated the waves of Lyon attack. With twenty minutes remaining, substitute Rybus found himself in space at the far post, but his shot was superbly blocked by the sprawling 'keeper.
As Lyon careered forward, the gaps emerged. Van de Beek came within inches of closing the match, as his long-range shot thundered off the joint between post and bar with Lopes beaten.
Then the third goal came. Rybus was involved again, his energy a welcome addition on Lyon's left flank. He crossed deep to Ghezzal, who composed himself, and directed a bullet header in to the net, via Viergever's thigh. At one stage Lyon had needed four goals. Now, it was just one.
Ajax nerves jangled. Even more so when Viergever was sent off for a second booking after 85 minutes. Cornet came within inches of sending the match to extra-time, his drilled shot from the far post fizzed agonisingly past Onana's goal.
That was the last chance for Lyon. Their players collapsed to the turf as the full-time whistle shrilled. They had been fantastic. But they were not quite as dazzling as Ajax were in the first leg. Only Manchester United stand between Peter Bosz' youngsters and a European title.
Lyon 3 - 1 Ajax (4-5): second half as it happened
FT | Ajax are through to the Europa League final. Lyon players are sprawled across the pitch. They gave it one hell of a bash.
Min 90+2 | Cornet slices a cross in to the crowd. Surely that will be that.
Min 90+2 | The referee awards Ajax a free-kick on the edge of their own box. Onana to hoof it long.
Min 90 | It's end-to-end, breathless stuff as the fourth official indicates three added minutes.
Min 88 | What. A. Chance. A cross goes through everyone and finds Cornet at the far post. He has time to take a touch, but his left-footed shot is just wide of the far post. Lyon are launching wave after wave of attack.
Min 87 | Nearly, Lacazette. Nearly. He leaps like a gazelle to meet a near-post cross, but he can't direct it towards goal.
Min 86 | It was Fekir who took the free-kick, left footed. It doesn't trouble Onana, but could be a threat to any low-flying aircraft.
Min 85 | Viergever is sent off! He receives a second yellow card for a foul on Fekir. Lyon now have a free-kick in a dangerous position, 25 yards out. Lacazette is over it.
Min 84 | Ajax sub: Younes off, Kluivert on.
Min 83 | The Lyon crowd celebrate with an Icelandic clap.
Min 81 | GOAL GOAL GOAL! Lyon! Ghezzal! Rybus chips a cross to the far post, where Ghezzal is waiting to nod a bullet header low towards goal. It takes a nick of the thigh of Viergever and bobbles past Onana. Lyon need one more to take the match to extra time.
Min 79 | Crash, bang, wallop! Van de Beek hammers a shot off the joint between post and bar.
Min 76 | Rybus almost makes an immediate impact. Fekir's cross is glanced on by Lacazette. Rybus arrives at the far post, but Onana accelerates off his line exceptionally well to sprawl and smother his effort at the near post.
Min 75 | Lyon subs: Rybus on for Morel, Ghezzal for Valbuena.
Min 74 | The referee penalises N'Koulou for a perfectly clean tackle, once again. He gestures for the big defender to calm down, but it was a well-executed, controlled tackle. The game has gone scrappy.
Min 71 | N'Koulou is playing with the label of his shirt protruding from his collar. He needs his mum to come on and sort it out.
Min 70 | Tolisso tries again, but his effort is good for nothing but comedy value. A classic swing-and-a-miss. To be fair, the ball was bobbling.
Min 69 | Tolisso tries a bicycle kick from an out-swinging cross. Emre Can, he is not. It skews well over.
Min 69 | Diakhaby booked.
Min 67 | A lovely bit of skill from Traoré allows Tete to flash a shot towards goal. The on-loan Chelsea winger kicked the ball against the heel of his right foot, so it went sneakily behind him. Unfortunately, it comes to nothing.
Min 65 | Oooof! One Ajax defender tries to clear the ball, but clatters it in to one of his team-mates, allowing Fekir to run through on goal. He slips at the crucial moment, and his shot flies over. That was a guilt-edged chance.
Min 65 | Ajax sub: Veltman off, Tete on.
Min 62 | Dolberg nearly turns a cross in to the net, but it bobbles to the feet of Diakhaby. He's guilty of, to use a technical term, 'faffing about at the back', and Ajax regain possession.
Min 60 | Oh dear, referee. N'Koulou is booked for a clean tackle on Dolberg. Moments later, Fekir also receives a harsh yellow.
Min 59 | Valbuena looks set to beat Veltman in a foot-race, when the Ajax defender swings an arm to stop his progress. The referee remains emotionless as the Lyon players demand a second yellow card for Veltman. He is lucky to still be on the pitch.
Min 59 | Ajax sub: Van de Beek is on for Schoene.
Min 57 | Nicolas N'Koulou is playing with the label of his shirt flapping out of his collar. Luckily, his tackle on Traoré is sharper than his look.
Min 55 | Cornet is allowed to run and run on the right. He nips inside on his left foot, but sends his shot way over. The Brazilian did well to fashion that chance, but lacked an incisive finish. Soon after, Fekir also sends a left-footed shot high and wide.
Min 52 | Rafael maraudes down the right wing, and feigns to burst to the byline before laying the ball off to Lacazette. The Frenchman, on a hat-trick, fizzes a fierce shot straight at Onana. Lyon have grasped hold of the initiative.
Min 50 | Diakhaby finds himself in space as a set piece his delivered from the right. He wraps his foot around the ball, but sends it straight at the 'keeper. A true centre-half's finish, it's fair to say.
Min 48 | Veltman is booked. His crime was a hard tackle on Morel. He pleads with the referee, placing a gentle arm on his shoulder. His protests are to no avail.
Min 47 | Ajax have started the second half with the same panache in possession that saw them cruising until the 43rd minute. But when Lyon regain the ball, Fekir is fouled and Tolisso whips in a free-kick from the left. The linesman flags for offside, Lacazette started his run a tad too early.
Min 46 | Lacazette is geeing up the crowd as Dolberg gets the second half underway.
Lyon 2 - 1 Ajax (3-5): half time talking points
Ajax could react to this in one of two ways. Either their inexperience will be a burden, and they'll be jaded by that end to the first half. Or, their inexperience will liberate them, and they'll continue to play like a bunch of youngsters without a care in the world.
Despite dominating large swathes of the first half, Ajax only mustered two shots on target. Lyon had four.
Although the two teams have more-or-less shared possession (53:47 in Lyon's favour), Lyon have attempted 22 tackles to Ajax's 12.
Lyon 2 - 1 Ajax (3-5): first half as it happened
HT | Dolberg's elegant finish after 27 minutes appeared to have put the tie beyond Lyon. Yet, in the closing minutes of the first half, Lacazette scored a quick-fire double to change the complexion of the evening. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the dressing rooms...
Min 45+1 | GOAALLLLLLLL! Lacazette at the double! Fekir shuffles away to the right of the box, and whips a devilish cross-cum-shot beyond a diving Onana. Lacazette is waiting at the far post to turn the ball in from close range.
Min 45 | GOOAALLLLL! Lacazette for Lyon! The striker gets up after the foul, takes a deep breath with his hands on his hips, and shoots straight down the middle. He rushes in to the net to claim the ball, and charges back to the centre spot. Lyon have a faint, mirage-in-the-desert glimmer of hope.
Min 43 | Penalty to Lyon! Lacazette beats De Ligt to a loose ball, and the defender takes him out.
Min 42 | Once again, a Younes run is followed by an Ajax attempt on goal. This time, Shoene lashes the ball wide from 30 yards. It was sat up nicely for him, but the connection was all wrong.
Min 41 | A half chance emerges for Klaassen. Younes dances beyond a couple of challenges before laying the ball to his captain on the edge of the box. His low shot skids wide of Lopes' goal.
Min 39 | Ajax look more content to stay rigid and take fewer risks than earlier in the match. You sense that they went all-out for that away goal, and now that they have taken the sting out of the tie, they'll look to ease through the remaining 50 minutes.
Min 36 | The large Ajax following are creating a din in the upper tier. Barring a miracle, they're on their way to Stockholm.
Min 34 | Traoré finds space on the right flank, but his attempt to cut inside is too obvious, and Morel recovers possession. Up at the other end, Valbuena is down in a heap. He came off second best in a 50-50 with big Davison Sánchez, who is absolutely not a man you would want to challenge in a 50-50.
Min 33 | Everything has gone a little flat in Lyon. The rhythm of play has slowed down, and the pre-match party atmosphere has been well and truly pooped.
Min 30 | Fekir cuts in on his left foot and flashes a shot towards goal. Veltman holds firm and blocks.
Min 29 | Dolberg has delivered a heavy blow to Lyon's hopes of progression, and my pre-match prediction of a 3-1 home win.
Min 27 | GOAAALLLL! Dolberg! Ajax catch Lyon out with a quick, long goal kick. Diakhaby can only head the ball in to the path of Dolberg, who plays a one-two with Younes before chipping the ball over Lopes. He created, and finished that move. With aplomb.
Min 24 | Ziyech goes very close. He is played in one-on-one by Younes, but approaching the goal from the left flank, he tries to shoot with his left foot. The natural option would have been to shape a shot towards the far post with his right foot. His hesitation allows Lopes to smother the ball. Moments before, Gonalons leapt at the near post to meet a Valbuena corner. He got up well, but his header was straight at an expectant Onana.
Min 22 | At the back for Ajax, Sánchez has been imperious so far. The former Atlético Nacional defender is gobbling up every aerial ball that passes vaguely in his direction.
Min 21 | Dolberg shows a neat first touch, a delightful shimmy, and good awareness to bring his team-mates in to play. He's certainly more than just a poacher.
Min 19 | One minute later, one more booking. Tolisso cleans out Klaassen and his name is scribbled down on the referee's notepad.
Min 18 | Morel is booked for a rash lunge on Veltman. No hesitation from the referee.
Min 17 | Ajax are growing in to this game, and they have the swagger of those great teams that came before them in red and white. Plenty of width, sharp passing, and constant movement.
Min 14 | Oooh, Ajax threaten again. The Lyon defenders were flat footed as the away side executed a neat free-kick routine, chipping the ball through to Younes, who had made a diagonal run. One-on-one, the winger tried to dink a bouncing ball over the onrushing Lopes, but the ball nestled on the roof of the net.
Min 12 | A first chance for Ajax, as Dolberg's shot is blocked just inside the box after the ball richocheted to his feet. Lyon scrambled the ball away, but only as far as Traoré, who stung Lopes' palms with a shot from a narrow angle. Lopes parried the ball right in to the middle of the six-yard box, but luckily for him, there were no Dutchmen waiting to pounce.
Min 9 | Fekir dances beyond the large frame of De Ligt, and the defender catches his ankle. Valbuena is over the ball 30 yards out... and he curls a tame effort in to Onana's arms. In the lead up to that free-kick, Fekir found a nice pocket of space behind Lacazette - the Ajax midfield will need to keep an eye on his movement.
Min 7 | Polish referee Marciniak has a word in Lacazette's ear, and gestures for him to calm down. He arrived late on Veltman in an attempt to close the Ajax defender down near the corner flag. Lacazette looks to be brimming with adrenaline.
Min 6 | Cornet twists, turns, and shoots in to the midriff of a diving Viergever. He showed neat footwork, but couldn't quite create enough space to dispatch a meaningful shot.
Min 5 | Sánchez clears the ball acrobatically to prevent Fekir storming through on goal in the centre of the pitch. The Colombian needed to intervene there.
Min 4 | The pattern of play in the opening minutes has been Lyon dominating possession and territory, with Ajax looking to surge forward on the counter-attack. Ajax are a notoriously-young team, you wonder if an early Lyon goal will jolt their confidence.
Min 2 | Lacazette earns an early free-kick after he was hauled down by Schoene. Valbuena whips the ball in, and Lacazette glances the ball wide. A positive start from Lyon's talisman.
Min 1 | Lacazette and Fekir share a quick embrace before getting the game underway. Let's see if Lyon can do it.
Lyon vs Ajax: team news
Lyon XI: Lopes; Rafael, N'Koulou, Diakhaby, Morel; Gonalons, Tolisso; Cornet, Fekir, Valbuena; Lacazette.
Subs: Ghezzal, Ferri, Jallet, Darder, Tousart, Gorgelin, Rybus.
Ajax XI: Onana; Veltman, Sánchez, De Ligt, Viergever; Klaassen, Shone, Ziyech; Traoré, Dolberg, Younes.
Subs: Tete, Riedewald, Campos, Westermann, van de Beek, Boer, Kluivert.
Lyon vs Ajax: pre-match chat
21:01 | The teams are gathering in the tunnel... and out they come! A cauldron-like atmosphere inside Lyon's new stadium. The Atlético fans believed last night, and nor do the Lyon lot think it's over.
21:00 | The Lyon faithful lift up a magnificent tifo in the home end; it's what looks like a seated 'joker', flanked by two roaring lions.
20:58 | Want to feel old? Probably not, but this fact will do the trick anyway... Matthijs De Ligt, in the centre of defence for Ajax, is 17 years old.
20:56 | Meanwhile, Lyon have won their three home knockout matches in this year's Europa League. It is finely poised indeed.
20:52 | Ajax are in stodgy form away from home. In their last five European away games, they have drawn three and lost two.
20:46 | A reminder that the other semi-final is taking place in Manchester, as United host Celta. You can follow that one with the insatiable Robbie Dunne.
20:40 | Ajax recently confirmed that they will rename the AmserdamArenA (I am also unsure as to why they chose to capitalise the last 'A') after the late, great Johan Cruyff. A fitting tribute.
20:28 | Davison Sánchez is another member of this Ajax crop that has been attracting attention. Barcelona are allegedly keen on his signature. He'll partner young De Ligt in the heart of the defence this evening.
20:20 | Well, Monsieur Lacazette does indeed start. Here's the full run-down on the team news in Lyon.
19:55 | With team news just around the corner, Lacazette is expected to start for Lyon. The French striker scored a screamer against Besiktas in the last 16, and has been linked to Atlético Madrid.
19:40 | Lyon average an impressive 4.3 goals per game at home in the Europa League (WhoScored).That will need to continue if they're to progress to the final.
19:10 | Kasper Dolberg is the man to keep an eye on in the Ajax attack. The 19-year-old has attracted attention from both Manchester clubs, but has stated that he sees the Eredivisie as the best place for his short-term development.
18:45 | Justin Kluivert is likely to be on the bench for Ajax. The youngster has received plenty of attention this season, and not just because he comes from fine footballing stock. He has stated that he would like to follow in his father's footsteps and play for Barcelona.
18:00 | On the return to fitness of star striker Alexandre Lacazette, Génésio said: "Alex's availability changes a lot. He will demand attention and he can also score at any time."
17:10 | Like Depay, Lyon head coach Bruno Génésio struck an upbeat note as he looked ahead to tonight's match, telling reporters: "There was some dejection after the first leg, but I have stressed that it is still only half time in the tie and it's still possible for us. We really believe in ourselves."
16:20 | Three goals down and with a record of no wins in five against Ajax, Lyon are up against it tonight. But former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay is certainly not giving up; he has sent out a rallying cry on Twitter, which reads: "We are Olympique Lyonnais. Dream. Believe. Achieve"
16:10 | Don't forget that we also have a live feed up and running ahead of tonight's other Europa League semi-final clash between Manchester United and Celta Vigo, which also kicks off at 21:05 CEST.
15:40 | On this day in 1994, Inter Milan claimed the UEFA Cup at the expense of Austria Salzburg - a Nerazzurri side that included current Ajax assistant Dennis Bergkamp. He wasn't altogether bad at football, was he?
15:00 | In case you were wondering, Spain is the country with the most UEFA Cup/Europa League wins, with 10. Half of which are Sevilla's, of course.
14:05 | If Lyon prove unable to produce a famous comeback, France will go another year with not one UEFA Cup/Europa League winner to its name. Clubs from the Netherlands, meanwhile, have lifted the trophy four times.
13:25 | If you're after a bit of pre-match reading on Peter Bosz's exciting young Ajax side, then allow us to point you in the direction of this from The Guardian's Jacob Steinberg. Not sure about Edwin van der Sar's cardie, though.
12:33 | It's looking less likely now than it did a week ago but did you know that Lyon were on the verge of a European double with their women's football team making the Champions League final. They knocked out Manchester City in the semi-final and will play French rivals PSG who made light work of Barcelona.
12:16 | Lyon will clearly not have wanted to be 4-1 down coming into the second leg and, as can be seen below, the French side are not fancied to go through. However, with Lacazette expected to start and with the knowledge that Ajax have generally struggled in their away ties in Europe this season, belief will be there from the start for Les Gones.
11:49 | Both semi-final second legs will be played at the same time and we'll be bringing you both live. The other game is already building up nicely and if Manchester United vs Celta Vigo is more your thing then jump on. The wonders of technology these days also lets you have two windows open at the same time so you can follow both games simultaneously and decide if our Matt or Robbie are giving the most insightful chat.
11:28 | The entertaining first leg showed us why this current crop of youngsters coming through the Ajax system could be capable of lifting a European trophy. In doing so, and with the Champions League qualification that comes with it, the club will have a better chance to hold onto some of their most prized assets.
Lyon vs Ajax: match preview
The Dutch side have one foot in the Solna May 24 Europa League final after recording a convincing 4-1 home win in Amsterdam last week and look odds on in participating in their first major European final since 1996 when they saw rivals on the night Juventus lift the Champions League title.
Lyon have yet to throw-in the towel with the French side hoping that an early goal inspires the partisan crowd at the impressive new Parc Olympique Lyonnais into spurring their side onto, what would be a famous European victory and their first ever Euro final placing.
Olympique can also take comfort from the fact Ajax completely outclassed Schalke in the quarter-final first leg, yet then struggled to establish their normal fluency during the Gelsenkirchen return and this will further the belief that the tie is not beyond the Ligue 1 side.
The French side will also hope that the domestic distraction of the Eredevise title push will also serve as a distraction for the men from Amsterdam with events in the Dutch league seeing ajax now just one point as te title goes down to the wire with arch-rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam.
Lyon vs Ajax live stream online: possible line-ups
Lyon XI: Lopes; Jallet, Mammana, Nkoulou, Morel; Gonalons, Tousart; Cornet, Fekir, Valbuena; Lacazette
Lyon vs Ajax: online betting odds
Lyon's Valbuena to open the scoring on the night pays out at 8/1.