A bite-size round-up of the week’s events in French football, for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening in Ligue 1 but hasn’t got the time (or the French) to do so.
Visitors to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday would have been forgiven for wondering if they’d somehow stumbled back into the 1970s, as Saint-Etienne’s famous ground played host to a sold-out clash between champions Marseille and the table-topping home side. OM took the lead in fortuitous circumstances after the ball struck referee Stéphane Bré and landed kindly for Lucho González, who dinked the ball into the penalty area for André-Pierre Gignac to volley in his first goal for the club. Dmitri Payet and Blaise Matuidi combined to set up Laurent Batlles for a 59th-minute leveller, but results on Sunday saw ASSE concede top spot.
Rennes led Ligue 1 going into the international break, topping the standings for the first time since 1970 after a 3-1 win at home to Toulouse. A sweet, rising shot from full-back Romain Danzé set the hosts on their way shortly before the interval before Kader Mangane and Sylvain Marveaux made the points safe, but coach Frédéric Antonetti (pictured) chastised his team for their sloppiness and said they would need three seasons of stability to mount a serious title challenge.
Lille moved into third place with a 3-1 win at home to Montpellier. Paris Saint-Germain could have finished the weekend on the podium but were frustrated by David Ospina (see below) in a 0-0 draw at home to Nice. Lyon clambered out of the relegation zone by winning 3-2 at Nancy, but only secured victory when an error from Gennaro Bracigliano allowed Jimmy Briand to volley in his second goal of the game in the 75th minute.
The week’s biggest story, however, occurred off the pitch. France’s Professional Football League (LFP) announced on Thursday night that away fans would be banned from both the matches between Marseille and PSG this season over security fears, drawing condemnation from fan groups and club officials.
Goal of the week: Michaël Ciani (Bordeaux 1-0 Lorient)
Player of the week: David Ospina (Nice)
That Nice returned to the south coast with a point from their trip to Paris on Sunday said a great deal about both the profligacy of PSG’s finishing and the excellence of visiting goalkeeper Ospina. He twice denied Guillaume Hoarau with full-stretch saves in the first half and then, with five minutes left to play and an open goal looming in front of Nenê, the 22-year-old Colombian charged out to make a brave stop at the Brazilian’s feet. His performance earned him a rating of nine from L’Équipe – the highest score of the weekend.
Quote of the week
“I’m a defensive midfielder. I can do a job [at right-back] for my club or for France, with pleasure. But you have to know that Lassana Diarra is a midfielder and not a right-back.”
– Lassana Diarra comes over all Billy Big-time when asked if he would be prepared to play at full-back for France
Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Sochaux’s shooting accuracy ratio this season is 56 percent and they are the only Ligue 1 team with a ratio higher than 50 percent.
7: Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
5: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
4: Gervinho (Lille), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Nenê (PSG), Benoît Pedretti (Auxerre), Moussa Sow (Lille)
4: Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Anthony Mounier (Nice)
3: Jimmy Briand (Lyon), Roy Contout (Auxerre), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
Week 9 fixtures (October 16/17)
Saturday: Auxerre v Bordeaux, Brest v Arles-Avignon, Caen v Monaco, Marseille v Nancy, Montpellier v Sochaux, Nice v Saint-Etienne, Toulouse v PSG; Sunday: Lens v Rennes, Lorient v Valenciennes, Lyon v Lille
The superb 2-0 defeat of Bosnia-Hercegovina last month means France head into their third Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Romania on Saturday in positive mood, but questions remain about how Laurent Blanc is likely to configure his midfield. Central midfield trio Alou Diarra, Yann M’Vila and Abou Diaby were integral to the win in Sarajevo but Diaby is a doubt for Saturday’s Group D encounter in Paris with an ankle injury and Diarra had to withdraw from training on Wednesday after hurting his leg.
It may ultimately make life easier for Blanc, who now has both Yoann Gourcuff and Samir Nasri at his disposal again. Lyon’s Anthony Réveillère is likely to cover for the injured Bacary Sagna at right-back, while Blanc says Karim Benzema’s late arrival at Clairefontaine (along with Real Madrid team-mate Lassana Diarra) will not jeopardise his chances of starting the game.