La semaine en France: Week 11

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
Torrential downpours in southern France prompted the postponement of two matches over the weekend, and when the skies finally cleared the unlikely team sitting on top of the table was Brest.

Marseille’s game at home to previous leaders Rennes appeared to represent OM’s chance to recapture top spot for the first time since the end of last season, but incessant rain saw the match at Stade Vélodrome pushed back from Saturday until Sunday and then postponed definitively when the poor weather continued.

It handed Brest and Saint-Etienne the chance to climb to the summit and it was last season’s Ligue 2 runners-up who prevailed when the sides met at Stade Francis Le Blé, through a 77th-minute Mario Licka header and a sublime chip (see below) from Romain Poyet.

Brest lead the table by two points from Rennes, with Marseille, Saint-Etienne, Toulouse and Montpellier a point further back. Toulouse and Montpellier were both held to 1-1 draws at home; the former against second-bottom Lens, the latter against Paris Saint-Germain. Lyon, meanwhile, bounced back from their League Cup exit to PSG with a laboured 2-1 win at home to Sochaux that bumped them into the top half.

Bordeaux drew 2-2 at Monaco on Tuesday, after Djimi Traoré had reprised the comedy own goal act from his Liverpool days to give the away side a 10th-minute lead. Jean Tigana’s men remain ninth, but on Thursday night Les Girondins‘ captain Alou Diarra had his ban for pushing referee Wilfried Bien extended by three matches.

The build-up to the season’s first PSG-OM clash on Sunday took another twist in classically bureaucratic French style, with the ban on Marseille’s fans reinstated by the league after it had been suspended by an administrative court last week. With Brest travelling to Lille and Rennes at home to Lyon, victory could yet take Marseille top.

Ligue 1 table

Goal of the week: Romain Poyet (Brest 2-0 Saint-Etienne)

Increasingly well-policed rights restrictions mean that this week’s Goal of the Week is brought to you in comically unromantic virtual form:

YouTube Preview Image

(Thanks to annette for providing a link to an actual video in the comments section)

Player of the week: Julien Féret (Nancy)
When Yoann Gourcuff left Bordeaux for Lyon in late August, one of the names touted as a possible replacement was that of Nancy’s 28-year-old string-puller Julien Féret. A move did not materialise but Féret has since been put on standby for the France squad and on Saturday he played an integral role in Nancy’s entertaining 3-2 win at Caen, setting up his side’s second and third goals with delightful mazy dribbles from the left flank.

Quote of the week
“If he keeps playing well like that when he comes on, psychologically, you have to thank him. And thanking a player doesn’t mean saying nice things about him in the press conference, but letting him play. And the moment will come, we’ll have to rotate the squad.”
– José Mourinho suggests the worm may finally be turning for Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, after he makes two game-changing contributions as a substitute in the 3-1 La Liga win at Hercules and the 2-2 draw at Milan in the Champions League

Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Marseille’s André-Pierre Gignac has scored from only one of his 30 shots in Ligue 1 this season (against Saint-Etienne), a conversion ratio of just 3 percent.

Top goalscorers
8: Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
7: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
6: Nenê (PSG), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
5: Benoît Pedretti (Auxerre), Moussa Sow (Lille)

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

Week 12 fixtures
Saturday: Sochaux v Auxerre, Arles-Avignon v Caen, Bordeaux v Valenciennes, Saint-Etienne v Lorient, Rennes v Lyon; Sunday: Nice v Toulouse, Nancy v Monaco, Lille v Brest, Lens v Montpellier, PSG v Marseille

France’s foremost Champions League contenders could scarcely have enjoyed more contrasting fortunes in mid-week. Lyon fell 4-0 down at Benfica before a late rally allowed them to escape with a 4-3 defeat that preserves their head-to-head advantage against the Portuguese champions in Group B, while Marseille won 7-0 at MŠK Žilina to set a competition record for the most handsome away victory. Gignac, who had just one goal to his name this season prior to the game, claimed a hat-trick, with Lucho González netting a second-half brace as Didier Deschamps’s side drew level on points with Spartak Moscow in Group F ahead of their meeting in Russia on November 23.

A late winner by Steeven Langil earned Auxerre a 2-1 win at home to Ajax – their first victory of the group phase – and means they now trail second-placed Milan by just two points in the supposed ‘Group of Death’, Group G.

Paris slipped to second place in Europa League Group J, a point behind Sevilla, following an open 0-0 draw at home to Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in which Mevlüt Erding missed about 17 presentable chances. Lille held onto second spot in Group C after rescuing a 2-2 draw at Levski Sofia thanks to an 88th-minute own goal by the splendidly named Ivo Ivanov, who had only been on the pitch for a minute.

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