Lyon opened up their Ligue 1 season in a positive fashion defeating Toulouse 3-0 with a brace from Karim Benzema and a rare goal from Jean II Makoun. Following a 0-0 draw away to Lorient, which dropped them to 3rd in the standings, Lyon rebounded with back to back wins over Rhône-Alpes rivals Grenoble and Saint-Étienne. Following that, Lyon picked up their third straight victory with a 3-2 win over Nice. The match was, however, marred with controversy. After trailing 0-2, Lyon got back into the match with two spectacular free kicks from Juninho. With the match in injury time and looking to end in a draw, referee Jean-Charles Cailleux and one of his assistant referees ruled a handball infraction had been committed by Nice defender Vincent Hognon in the box given Lyon a penalty, which was converted by Benzema. Looking at the replay, it could have easily been determined that the handball infraction had been without malice and that the penalty should have not been given. However, Lyon escaped with a victory, which moved them into first place. They followed this win up with back to back one goal wins over newly-promoted side Le Havre and Nancy giving them five straight league victories.
The following week, Lyon received their first loss in the league against Rennes that would later be described as a "thrashing" by the media. Lyon struggled in every aspect of the match and allow Rennes striker Mickaël Pagis to score a hat-trick, the last goal being a beautiful strike from almost thirty yards out. The loss to Rennes showed as Lyon's horrilbe form continued drawing with both Lille and Auxerre the following two weeks. Lyon finally got back on track with shut-out wins over Sochaux, Le Mans, and Monaco before heading into their showdown with imminent rivals Bordeaux. With Lyon playing at home, they prove to still be the most dominant French side in the league defeating Bordeaux 2-1 with goals from Benzema and a beautiful goal from Kim Källström. The following week, Lyon got another test, this time in Paris. In this match, Lyon not only incurred their second defeat, but they lost their consistent right back Anthony Réveillère to injury with the player likely being out for the season, though he later returned to the squad. The following match, Lyon only managed a 0-0 draw in the downpouring rain against Valenciennes.
Lyon suffered their third defeat of the season the following week against relegation strugglers Nantes. Lyon came into the match apparently looking ahead to their Champions League clash with Bayern Munich and proceeded to underestimate the West Coast side who defeated Lyon 1-2 with two goals from the Croat Ivan Klasnić. The loss was promptly followed by a showdown for first place with rivals Marseille the following week. Other than battling for first place, the return of Hatem Ben Arfa to the Gerland was on the minds of supporters, as well as the players. However, despite the hype and build up leading up to the match, including achieving a record television audience, both clubs failed to score a goal as the match ended in another 0-0 draw. Lyon finally ended their winless run with a 1-0 victory over Caen with Karim Benzema scoring Lyon's lone goal, his 10th of the league campaign. With the victory, Lyon were assured 1st place heading into the three week winter break.
Lyon returned from the winter break taking on Lorient. Despite getting an early goal from Ederson, Lyon failed to get a winning result leaving the match with a 1-1 draw. The following week, they rebounded with a 2-0 victory over Grenoble with Ederson getting on the scoreboard for the second straight week. Due to Lyon's cup matches being postponed, they were forced to endure two cup matches, in a span of four days, before facing rivals Saint-Étienne. The match ended in another 1-1 draw. After a full week of training, Lyon again rebounded from a draw picking up a convincing 3-1 victory over Hugo Lloris's former club Nice with Jean Makoun scoring up an unexpected brace. This match also marked the league debut of youth product Yannis Tafer. The following week, they picked up another convincing 3-1 win, this time against Le Havre, with Makoun scoring again. This match also marked Lyon's 3rd straight match where a red card was given out. The following week, Lyon again earned a victory, defeating Nancy 2-0. Lyon started the match without the majority of their regulars who were being rested for the 1st leg of their Champion's League showdown with Barcelona.
Returning from Champion's League play, Lyon faced Rennes, who was responsible for the champions first loss of the season. The match remained even until the 66th minute when Kim Källström scored following a gifted pass from the youngster Miralem Pjanić. The scoreline remained until injury time when Rennes striker Jimmy Briand scored after receiving a nice through ball which caught Lyon defender Cris off guard. Briand proceeded to get a shot on the ball off balance, which got past the charging Hugo Lloris to tie the match 1-1, which was the eventual scoreline. Lyon followed this draw with a defeat taking on Lille, whom they had just contested three days ago in a Coupe de France tie. With the match being played at the Stade de France and the clubs entertaining a record crowd, Lyon fielded a pretty strong, yet questionable side with players Mathieu Bodmer and François Clerc returning from a long absence and also having the task of defeating Barcelona in Spain in the second leg of their Champion's League clash. In the match, Lyon failed constantly to get on the scoreboard with the Ivorian and former mastiff Kader Keïta missing on numerous opportunities. Lille made sure they made good on their chances with the Slovakian Róbert Vittek scoring the opening goal in the 60th minute and the Brazilian Michel Bastos finishing off Lyon scoring the second goal in the 88th minute to pick up a 0-2 victory.
After returning from their embarrassing defeat to Barcelona in Spain, Lyon suffered another embarrassment losing their first match at home this season to minnows Auxerre, despite both management and Claude Puel stating the club would respond positively to their elimination from the Champion's League. Fielding exactly the same lineup that lost 2-5 to Barcelona, Lyon failed for the second week in a row to get on the scoreboard losing 0-2 to Auxerre, who got goals from Ireneusz Jeleń and the Dane Thomas Kahlenberg leaving Lyon to hope they get a positive result from the Le Classique in order to hold on to their first place position.
They would indeed keep hold of first place as a result of Marseille's 3-1 victory over PSG. Lyon responded by picking up their first league victory in over three matches in a 2-0 win over Sochaux. They captured their second straight league victory in a win over Le Mans with Karim Benzema securing a much needed brace in a 3-1 win. With the likes of Marseille, Bordeaux, PSG, Lille, and Toulouse on their backs, Lyon needed victories to ensure their 8th straight league titles. They proceeded to falter drawing with mid-table club Monaco 2-2. Despite being 10 spots down in the table, Monaco were the stronger side forcing Lyon to come back from a goal down twice. The draw also dropped Lyon from the top spot, which they had held since the 4th week of the season. With Marseille recording a victory over Lorient hours before, Lyon needed a victory over Bordeaux to ensure they remain in the title race. Early on in the match, Lyon were denied a clear penalty chance after the Brazilian Ederson was taking down in the box by Bordeaux right back Matthieu Chalmé. Bordeaux proceeded to score just before halftime with a goal from the former Lyonnais Alou Diarra after the Brazilian Wendel hit the post on a shot off a corner kick. Chalmé would be involved in another denied penalty dispute later in the match, this time with Benzema. Despite the initial foul occurring inside the penalty box, the referee Stéphane Bré ruled the foul had occurred outside the box where Benzema fell. Eventually, Lyon fell to Bordeaux dropping the defending champions to 3rd and, instead of fighting for the title, were now fighting for the 3rd and final Champions League place with PSG, whom they faced next week. Played on a Friday, Lyon failed to score a goal for the second straight week as the match ended in a 0-0 draw. The next week against Valenciennes, Lyon endured their 7th defeat of the season losing 0-2. The lost effectively, but not mathematically, eliminated Lyon from winning their eight consecutive title. That occurred the following week. Despite defeating Nantes 3-0 with Jean Makoun scoring a brace, a victory by Bordeaux over Valenciennes eliminated Lyon from title contention.
Instead of reminiscing, Lyon took the opportunity to focus on qualifying for next year's UEFA Champions League with a key match against Marseille. Though they were positioned for the third qualifying round in the standings, Lyon looked to jump Marseille into second position to go directly through the group stage. In front of a record crowd for a Marseille match, Lyon cruised to a 3-1 victory with Benzema finally ending his goal drought scoring a brace. Juninho scored the third goal. The following week, against Caen, Juninho and Benzema scored again in a 3-1 victory. For Juninho, it was his 100th career goal for Lyon. Juninho also received a standing ovation upon being substituted out, in what some knew was his final match at the Stade Gerland. Unfortunately, the victory was with malice since Marseille also won that week. Lyon were now guaranteed to finish in the 3rd spot meaning they would be seeded directly into the Playoff round, where they might end up facing the likes of the 2008–09 UEFA Cup champions Shakhtar Donetsk and Sporting Clube.
Read more about this topic: 2008–09 Olympique Lyonnais Season