Marseille had seen their six-point cushion over the chasing pack slashed in half by wins for Rennes on Saturday and Monaco earlier on Sunday while Nice defeated Bordeaux in the hours before kick-off at the Orange Vélodrome to also remain in contention.
The home side had, however, won six and lost just one – to Paris Saint-Germain – of their previous seven league outings, and had their destiny, and ambitions of claiming second place behind the freshly elected champions to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage, in their hands.
It was the arm of Moussa Dembélé that Marseille felt could have given them the opening opportunity (25 ‘), but despite the hosts’ impassioned pleas for a penalty after Gerson’s cross had to strike the Lyon captain on the upper arm, referee Antony Gautier was unmoved.
It might not have mattered quite so much if Arkadiusz Milik had been able to take two superb first-half chances that came his way. The Poland international, who started Thursday’s UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final first leg defeat to Feyenoord on the bench, was freed by an instinctive first-time pass from Dimitri Payet, but sent a shot over the crossbar (29 ‘).
The on-loan Napoli striker should have found the net just before the break when Payet’s glorious reverse ball played in Gerson on the left side, and the Brazilian’s ball across goal found Milik lunging at the back post, but with Lukeba at close quarters, he miscued the ball behind (43 ‘).
Neither side managed to muster a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes; in the second, Lyon certainly did as they gave themselves a chance of returning to European competition next season.
The first came from Lukeba, who – at 19 – looks to be yet another rough diamond polished to a shine by the productive Lyon youth academy. Emerson’s free-kick took a happy ricochet off the Marseille wall, and although Pau Lopez brilliantly blocked Dembélé’s close-range effort, Lukeba stabbed home from inside the six-yard box (55 ‘).
The young defender’s second goal of the season would have been cancelled out had Anthony Lopes not leapt agilely to his right to push out Payet’s free-kick that had been expertly flighted over the wall (67 ‘).
Dembélé then gave Lyon breathing space. Sent clear down the right by Lucas Paqueta, Malo Gusto – yet another teenage OL youth academy product – sent over an inviting cross and Dembélé powered a peerless header beyond Lopez (76 ‘).
The former Celtic forward has now equalized his career-best single league season goals tally – achieved with the Scottish side in 2016/17 – before Lyon killed the game off. Marseille substitute Cédric Bakambu might have pulled one back he had not gotten his legs in a tangle when Bamba Dieng found him inside the area, and OL immediately counter-attacked with Toko Ekambi finishing after Tetê sent the ball across the face of goal (88 ‘ ).
Peter Bosz’s team, who have lost just once in 15 league games against Marseille, are now up to seventh place, two points off sixth-placed Strasbourg. If Nice win next Saturday’s Coupe de France final and also qualify for European competition via the league, a sixth-placed finish would secure the side a berth in next season’s UEFA Europa Conference League.
THE PLAYER: Malo Gusto
The Lyon right-back is just 18, but – like Lukeba – you would not know that he’s enjoying his maiden full season in the first team. His work rate is sensational while his delivery from out wide is menacing, and led to the all-important second goal.
THE STAT: 1000
Lyon became the fifth Ligue 1 Uber Eats club to register 1000 wins in the French top flight after Marseille, Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne and Monaco.
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