Poor Pitch Doesn’t Help Poor Stalemate In Seville


Real Betis and Lyon served up an absolute stinker of a game in their opening game of the Europa League but were not helped by the awful pitch at Benito Villamarín.

Betis boss Pepe Mel made ten changes from the side that defeated Valencia 3-1 at the weekend with only winger Alvaro Vadillo keeping his place in the starting team while Lyon manager Remi Garde swapped Milan Bisevac, Gueida Fofana and Nabil Fekir for Bakary Koné, Jordan Ferri and Jimmy Briand.

Both teams started off at a good pace but, as would become the theme of the game, the horrible pitch and lack of performance meant that the final pass was never there until Lyon created a nice opening eight minutes in. Briand got the ball on the left and slipped the ball through to the underlapping left back Henri Bedimo. The Cameroon international flighted a nice ball to the back post where Alexandre Lacazette and Bafetimbi Gomis were waiting. Lacazette got a volley in on goal but it was into the ground and easy enough for Betis keeper Stephan Andersen to deal with.

Betis had a great chance just a couple of minutes later. They worked the ball to the left for winger Cedrick and the youngster sent his cross in low. It wasn’t dealt with by Koné and landed at the feet of Chuli 8 yards out. The striker turned quickly but couldn’t keep his shot down. It was a big chance and one that Chuli should have taken.

Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons gets his head to the ball
Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons gets his head to the ball

The game fell away after that chance despite the atmosphere being created by the Betis fans. The pitch did not help at all with lumps of turf flying up anytime a challenge was made and the ball bobbling all over the place and, because of this, neither side created any chances. However, Lyon did get one halfway through the half. Briand won a free kick out on the left wing which Clement Grenier took. His delivery was headed clear but only to Lacazette on the right of the box. His cross found its way to an unmarked Briand at the back post and the winger decided to take the acrobatic approach and could only direct his shot back across the six yard box. It was poor from Briand who really should have hit the target.

The game got worse after that with the only highlights being some tough challenges which got Swedish referee Stefan Johannesson’s yellow card out. Yet, four minutes from half time, Betis had a great chance. Joan Verdú played the ball forward to the onrushing Nosa Igiebor and the Nigerian midfielder made his way into the box after a quick one-two with Cedrick. He elected to unselfishly square it past keeper Anthony Lopes for Chuli but Bedimo got in ahead of the striker and prevented the goal. This sparked Betis a little and just before half time they were almost gifted the lead.

Koné, as he did all night, dallied on the ball for far too long and was closed down by Cedrick. The defender’s clearance was closed down by the flying winger and it fell to Chuli. He knocked a quick through ball to Cedrick whose shot was straight at Lopes. It was a big chance for Betis and an even bigger let off for Koné. It also proved to be the last action of a poor first half.

The second half saw much the same pattern of play as the first half but was almost lifted by a piece of brilliance eight minutes in. A hopeful long ball down the Betis right somehow found its way to Chuli. The striker was closed down by Samuel Umtiti and Maxime Gonalons just insde the area but he managed to wriggle away with lovely close control before rasping a shot which Lopes had to save.

Betis were starting to control the game a little more but almost fell behind just after the hour mark. Gomis won a free kick around 30-35 yards from goal and just to the right for Lyon. Grenier stepped up and delivered his first excellent delivery of the night to the far post. Umtiti got a good run at it but, with Andersen flying out at him, he headed right across goal from three yards out and Briand couldn’t turn it in at the second opportunity. It was another moment where Lyon should have scored and if Umtiti was braver then they would have.

And eight minutes later they almost paid for that miss. The ball was played forward to the impressive Igiebor on the edge of the Lyon area. The midfielder backheeled the ball to substitute Salva Sevilla and got the return inside the area. With Lopes rushing at him again, Igiebor decided to dink it over the keeper but watched on with disappointment as it hit the outside of the near post.

Both sides pushed some more for a winner as both Lacazetter and Cedrick tested the goalkeepers with shots but the poor pitch and lack of creativity on show saw this game fizzle out. It was a relief when referee Johannesson blew the full time whistle and ended what had been a really poor game.

It was a positive start for Betis but they will feel that they could and maybe should have won it. Lyon looked like a team that hadn’t won in a while and Betis had the better chances. They will need to pick up three points in the tight games like this at home if they want to progress. As for Lyon, they’ll just be happy to have gotten a point when they’re in such a bad slump. The big concern will be the lack of production from their front men with Gomis looking especially poor. It’s certainly going to be interesting for both teams in the Europa League.

Real Betis: Andersen, Steinhöfer, Perquis (c) (Amaya 78), Figueras, Dídac, Reyes, Igiebor, Cedrick, Verdú (Sevilla 67), Vadillo (Juanfran 55), Chuli

Subs: Nono, Sara, Rodríguez, Castro

Yellow: Steinhöfer, Figueras

Olympique Lyon: Lopes, Dabo (Fofana 78), Koné, Umtiti, Bedimo, Ferri, Gonalons (c), Lacazette, Grenier (Mvuemba 90), Briand, Gomis (Fekir 68)

Subs: Zeffane, Malbranque, Pléa, Gorgelin

Yellow: Gonalons, Dabo, Grenier



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