La semaine en France: Week 10

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.

Ligue 1
Setbacks for all of their major rivals allowed Marseille to move into second place last weekend and victory at home to leaders Rennes on Saturday night is guaranteed to take the defending champions back to the top of the pile for the first time since the end of 2009-10.

OM have yet to set anyone’s pulse racing this season, but in their 3-1 win at Lille they showed some of the pragmatism and composure that took them to their first league title in 18 years last term. On the back foot throughout the first half, they fell behind to a Yohan Cabaye effort in the 26th minute and would have been out of contention by half-time had it not been for a string of excellent stops from Steve Mandanda. Loïc Rémy scored twice in the second half, either side of a deflected strike by Lucho González, to extend Marseille’s run without defeat to eight games.

Rennes misfired once again in the continued absence through injury of striker Victor Hugo Montaño, losing 1-0 at home to Montpellier to cede the league’s last unbeaten record. Saint-Etienne slipped a place to third after Dimitri Payet ballooned a last-minute penalty over the crossbar in a 1-1 draw at home to Caen. Promoted Brest are now level on points with Marseille and Les Verts in fourth, having registered their fourth straight away win with a 2-0 victory at Bordeaux.

Paris Saint-Germain’s defensive frailties unexpectedly returned as they lost 3-2 at home to Auxerre, despite Nenê’s sweet curler having put them ahead after just 50 seconds, while Lyon’s recent momentum petered out in mystifyingly meek fashion in a 1-1 draw at Arles-Avignon.

Marseille’s fans were celebrating, meanwhile, after a court in the city suspended the Professional Football League’s (LFP) decision to ban away fans from this season’s two games between OM and PSG.

Ligue 1 table

Goal of the week: Grégory Pujol (Monaco 0-2 Valenciennes):

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Player of the week: 
Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
Valenciennes’ 2-0 win at Monaco on Saturday was both their first victory away from home this season and their first success at Stade Louis II for over 20 years, and in a game of few chances it was the poise of 30-year-old striker Pujol that proved the difference between the teams. His first goal was a peach; plucking a Renaud Cohade cross out of the sky and swivelling to beat Stéphane Ruffier with a firm, left-foot shot in the 32nd minute. His second (see above) was even better, as he threw himself at David Ducourtioux’s exquisite right-wing cross to finish a break-neck counter-attack with a perfectly timed header.

Quote of the week
“You’re an asshole.”
– Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas to L’Equipe journalist Vincent Duluc, as he left an extraordinary press conference in which he had attacked Duluc for reporting (amongst other things) that Claude Puel stood to receive a ‘golden parachute’ payment of between €7 million and €9 million if he was sacked

Stat of the week
(courtesy of OptaJean)
Brest have kept seven consecutive clean sheets in Ligue 1, the best such run since Guingamp went seven straight games without conceding a goal towards the end of the 2002-03 campaign.

Top goalscorers
8: Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
6: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen), Nenê (PSG)
5: Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes), Moussa Sow (Lille)
4: Gervinho (Lille), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Benoît Pedretti (Auxerre), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)

Top assists
5: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
4: Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)

Week 11 fixtures
Saturday: Auxerre v Nice, Brest v Saint-Etienne, Caen v Nancy, Lorient v Arles-Avignon, Lyon v Sochaux, Toulouse v Lens, Marseille v Rennes; Sunday: Monaco v Bordeaux, Valenciennes v Lille, Montpellier v PSG

Coupe de la Ligue
Lyon went out of the competition in the last 16 after losing a thrilling tie 2-1 at home to PSG, with Ludovic Giuly lashing home the winner in extra time, but the most enduring saga of the season’s early weeks was (theoretically) brought to an end shortly after the final whistle when Aulas confirmed that Puel and his staff will be staying on until the end of the season.

Marseille reached the quarter-finals with a ropey 1-0 win at third tier Guingamp, while Senegalese international Guirane N’Daw scored the only goal of Saint-Etienne’s tie at home to Bordeaux and then promptly burst into tears.

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