A clinical second-half performance saw Lyon put four past Fulham in the final match of their pre-season tour of France tonight at the Stade Pierre Rajon in Bourgoin. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side held their own in the first 45 minutes but were swept away after half-time when the French side ran riot with a brace from Maxwell Terrier, a penalty converted by Mariano Diaz and a simple finish by substitute Maxwell Cornet.
The final result might have been harsh on the visitors, but it served as an important reminder of the step up in quality Fulham will have to prepare for as they get ready to return to the top flight next month. The majority of the goals arrived once Jokanovic had tinkered significantly with his strongest starting line-up of the summer, but the meticulous Serbian head coach will not be using that as an excuse. Some of Fulham’s defending was naive, in stark contrast to the much more assured first-half display – where they limited their opponents to a couple of openings.
Lyon did enjoy the better of the first period, with former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay serving early notice of his speed in attack. Denis Odoi, playing at centre back once again, ensured an early run from the Dutchman come to nothing as Fulham weathered the French side’s brisk start. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side gradually got a foothold in the contest, playing patient possession football, and came close to opening the scoring themselves when Stefan Johansen burst onto a clever lay-off from Rui Fonte and rattled the side-netting with a low drive from twenty yards out. The Whites played most of their football on the counter-attack, with Fonte showing more of an aptitude for holding up the ball here that he had during most of his difficult re-introduction to English football last season.
Record signing Jean-Michael Seri made his long-awaited first start in Fulham colours and looked assured occupying a holding role in front of the Fulham defence. The former Nice midfielder snapped into several tackles – one a little too strongly for the referee, when he was harshly booked for challenging Ousseynou Ndiaye in a fifty-fifty on the left wing. Despite Lyon’s dominance of the first period, Marcus Bettinelli was rarely called into action. The Fulham goalkeeper did make an excellent stop to prevent Bertrand Traore’s precise curler from finding the bottom corner after clever approach play from Jordan Ferri and Ndiaye.
Lyon went close again in the dying embers of the first half. Ferri played Depay in behind the Fulham backline, but the winger’s scruffy strike lacked the power to travel too far past Bettinelli into the net and Tim Ream arrived to hammer the ball after to safety. Jokanovic could consider himself content at half-time that the Whites had held their own against eye-catching opposition, who had finished third in Ligue 1 last season and recent arrival Maxime Le Marchand looked particularly composed at left back.
The French side changed their entire eleven at half-time, introducing the likes of Houssem Aouar, Lucas Tousart, Tanguy Ndombele and Maxwell Cornet. They should have gone in front merely moments after the restart when another substitute Martin Terrier somehow contrived to hit the base of the near post from three yards out and Ndombele slashed the rebound wastefully wide. Fulham carved out their best chance of the match when captain Tom Cairney sent Aboubakar Kamara in behind the Lyon defence with a clever through ball, but the French forward shot wildly into the crowd – injuring a spectator in the process.
Lyon began to move the ball at a much higher tempo and put the Fulham goal under a prolonged period of pressure. The opening goal arrived on 63 minutes, with more than a suspicion of offside about it, although the Whites only had themselves to blame for losing the ball in a dangerous area. Aouar took advantage of the Fulham defence’s hesitation to saunter to the byline and sent over a low cross which Mariano Diaz failed to fully connect with, but Terrier was on hand at the back post to sweep home from close range.
Cyrus Christie was then replaced by Steven Sessegnon after sustaining a head injury following a hefty fall, but there was little respite for what was becoming an overworked Fulham defence. Lyon were awarded a penalty after Odoi was penalised for shirt-pulling at a free-kick and Mariano doubled Lyon’s lead, blasting the spot-kick past Bettinelli. Four minutes later, it was three. The recently-introduced Moritz Jenz was horribly caught out when Cornet burst onto a forward ball on the right flank, outstripped him for pace and cleverly beat Bettinelli at his near post after giving the Fulham goalkeeper the eyes.
The French side’s quality really began to tell in the closing stages as they kept the ball confidently and left a much-changed Fulham side chasing shadows. Terrier clincially grabbed his second with six minutes to play when he stole in front of Ibrahima Cisse to steer home an inviting cross from Kenny Tete, much to the dismay of an anguished Bettinelli, who had been afforded little protection for any of the Lyon goals. This was a sobering evening for Jokanovic’s charges and a harsh way for Fulham’s week in France to come to an end – but there will be plenty to work on as the pre-season preparations continue in the coming days.
OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (4-2-3-1): Gorgelin (Racioppi 45); Dubois (Tete 45), Mendy (Rafael 45), Marcelo (Solet 45), Morel (Martins-Pereira 45); Caqueret (Tousart 45), Ferri (Ndombele 45), Cheikh (Aouar 45); Ndiaye (Terrier 45), Memphis (Cornet 45); Traoré (Mariano 45).
GOAL: Terrier (63, 84), Mariano (pen 74), Cornet (78).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Christie (S. Sessegnon 69), Le Marchand (Kebano 45), Odoi (Jenz 74), Ream; Seri (McDonald 61), Johansen (O’Riley 74), Cairney (de la Torre 74); Kamara (Thorsteinsson 74), R. Sessegnon (Fossey 74), Fonte (Kait 74).
BOOKED: Seri. Johansen, Odoi.