Friday, March 24, 2017

Gent 1 Lyon 1: Sels the spot-kick hero for nine-man hosts

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 16 Sep 2015

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A late penalty save from Matz Sels handed nine-man Gent their first point in the Champions League group stages, securing a battling 1-1 draw at home to Lyon on Wednesday.

Half-time substitute Christophe Jallet headed the visitors in front just before the hour, after Gent’s Brecht Dejaegere was handed a straight red card for a lunge on Maxime Gonalons prior to half-time.

Defeat would have been harsh on Gent, who saw Laurent Depoitre crash an effort against the crossbar during an energetic first half. 

The industry of the hosts failed to subside after going behind and Gent, appearing in the tournament proper for the first time, were rewarded midway through the second half when Danijel Milicevic slotted home.

Lyon, coming on the back of a drab 0-0 draw with Lille at the weekend, once again struggling without the attacking talents of Nabil Fekir, with Alexandre Lacazette, who missed the last-minute spot-kick that saw Thomas Foket dismissed for conceding, still searching for his first goal of the season.

In contrast, Gent will take plenty of heart from this performance, as they seek to upset the odds and become the first Belgian side to qualify for the knockout stages.

Roared on by the home faithful, it was Gent who started the brighter, fashioning the first chance inside two minutes when a neat move allowed Moses Simon to feed Depoitre inside the area, but his angled shot was well saved by goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

The Belgian striker came close again eight minutes later, bursting through the heart of the defence before driving a stinging effort against the woodwork.

Lyon struggled to match the energy of Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s men and Depoitre thought he had made it third time lucky when he tapped home Thomas Foket’s inch-perfect cross after 25 minutes, but was rightfully flagged for offside.

Lacazette did his best to spearhead a Lyon response just after the half-hour mark, beating his man on the edge of the box before calling Sels into action with a venomous low effort.

That was as close as Lyon came, but Gent’s bright start threatened to unravel when Dejaegere received a straight red for a high foot on Gonalons just before the break. 

Lyon nearly capitalised on their numerical advantage three minutes after the break, with Lacazette twisting and turning inside the box before seeing a bending effort tipped round the post by Sels.

But Sels was picking the ball out of his net just before the hour when Jallet shook off his man to divert a glancing header home from Mathieu Valbuena’s corner.

That goal looked to have opened the floodgates, with Lacazette seeing a header chalked off for offside.

But Gent battled on and were rewarded for their tenacity after 68 minutes when Milicevic latched on to a superb throughball from Sven Kums to fire home.

Valbuena linked up with Jallet again 15 minutes from time, with the former heading an excellent cross into the area just wide.

Lyon were handed a golden opportunity at the death when Foket brought down substitute Aldo Kalulu in the area, which saw the winger handed his marching orders, but Lacazette saw his resulting penalty parried away by Sels as Gent secured a memorable point. 

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