We won the tactical battle' says Lyon coach Garcia

Reuters , Sunday 16 Aug 2020

Rudi Garcia
Soccer Football - Champions League Quarter Final - Manchester City v Olympique Lyonnais - Jose Alvalade Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal - August 15, 2020 Olympique Lyonnais coach Rudi Garcia celebrates after Moussa Dembele scored their third goal, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Reuters)

Olympique Lyonnais manager Rudi Garcia said winning the tactical battle with Pep Guardiola’s side had been the key to his team’s surprise 3-1 win in the Champions League quarter-final on Saturday.

The victory sends Lyon, who finished seventh in the French league, into a clash with German champions and tournament favourites Bayern Munich in Lisbon on Wednesday.

“With Pep, you can expect anything. We knew that Pep could concoct something to cause us problems. But in the end I think we won the tactical battle in the sense that we’ve mastered our tactical system, even if I changed it (during the match),” said Garcia.

Lyon were able to exploit the space left in midfield by Guardiola’s decision to play an extra defender and when City reverted to their normal, attacking formation, the French side punished them on the break.

“I’m experiencing a lot of happiness right now ... when I see the joy in the dressing room, I tell myself that I’m in the right,” he said.

“You can’t stop when you’re on such a good path. It’s not the night to talk about Bayern, but we’re only in the semi-finals, we’ve still got a few steps to go,” he said.

Garcia left striker Moussa Dembele on the bench but the former Celtic forward responded with two goals after coming on in the second half.

“It was a disappointment for Moussa not to start, but I told him, he was going to be very important when entering. Salvation came from the bench,” he said.

Dembele’s goals prompted wild scenes on the streets of Lyon on Saturday as fans gathered in the city centre, dancing and lighting flares to celebrate their victory over pre-match favourites City.

“It was a complicated game against a very great team. For a player, there is always a little bit of sadness to start on the bench, but I made a difference,” Dembele told French television.

“We made the promise to give everything. The spirit of the group has changed, we know that we are a great team.”

Lyon’s surprise victories over Juventus and City came after the French season was halted in March and, unlike most European leagues, did not resume.

Garcia said they had made the most of that situation.

“We adapted to the suspension of Ligue 1, we had eight weeks of pre-season, it’s massive. Our fitness coach really came up with the perfect solution for our players,” he explained, while also conceding that his players tired towards the end.

“We’re developing a taste for things, but our confidence levels are growing in this squad, our results have shown that, but we’ll still be the outsiders, the underdogs against Bayern Munich,” Garcia said.

“We’ll need to pull off a shock result, just as we did against Juventus and tonight against Manchester City.”

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