Lyon – like Hapoel Tel Aviv – off to slow start in league
The French team would happily swich places with the Israeli champs, as it is stuck on five points from seven matches.
By ALLON SINAI
There will be far more on the line than just three Champions League for Olympique Lyon coach Claude Puel when he guides his team against Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Wednesday night.As disappointing as Hapoel’s start to the Premier League season has been, Lyon would happily swap places with the Israeli champs. Tel Aviv has just four points from its first four league matches following Saturday’s shock 4-2 home defeat to Ironi Kiryat Shmona. However, Lyon is stuck on five points from seven matches and is placed in second-to-last position in the French Ligue 1 after a 1-0 defeat to fierce rivals Saint-Etienne on Saturday.Lyon, French champion for seven straight years between 2002 and 2008, spent about 30 million euros recruiting top talent over the summer – including France playmaker Yoann Gourcuff – and yet, the club has won just one of seven matches, putting coach Puel under massive pressure.Nevertheless, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said he has no intention of sacking Puel, who has failed to win a trophy since joining the club in 2008, although Hapoel could make it difficult for Aulas to live up to his word if the Reds win at Bloomfield on Wednesday.“We’re not going to rush into changing everything on a whim,” Aulas told the Telefoot television program on Sunday.“We’ve recruited well over the last two years and we’ll examine things after 10 matches in the championship and three in the Champions League. We’ll then have a very precise idea of what’s going to happen.”Puel still has faith in his and his team’s abilities, telling reporters, “I am the right man for the situation. I am not going to resign.”Dimitri Payet’s second-half free kick was enough to give French league leader Saint-Etienne a 1-0 away win at Lyon on Saturday and intensify the pressure on the beleaguered Puel.The 100th local derby between the teams was settled by another moment of magic from Payet, who has had a stunning start to the season with seven league goals in as many games to give Saint-Etienne bragging rights over Lyon after 15 years of misery.Saint-Etienne proudly tops the league for the first time since 1982 with 16 points.Meanwhile in the Israeli Premier League, Hapoel Ramat Gan climbed out of the bottom of the standings for the first time this season on Sunday, defeating Hapoel Acre 3-2.Ramat Gan, which began its campaign with a four point deduction for last season’s financial irregularities, claimed its first win of the season thanks to goals from its Bulgarian recruits Dimitar Telkiyski (47) and Krum Bibishkov (58, 62), with Roei Dayan’s brace (50, 83) not enough for Acre to snatch a point on the road.Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Ashdod SC in the final game of matchday 4 on Monday night.AP contributed to this report.
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