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.
Was this the week that Marseille’s title defence began in earnest? A 4-0 win at home to Montpellier last Saturday took the champions back to the summit, above Lille on goal difference, and a goalless draw in the re-arranged game against Rennes on Wednesday sent them a point clear. Steve Mandanda saved an early penalty by Rennes’ Jirès Kembo Ekoko to prevent OM falling behind, with Lucho González squandering a superb chance late in the game when he side-footed wide from 12 yards.
Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain were both aiming for top spot when they met on Sunday, but they had to settle for a point apiece after a thrilling 2-2 draw. Aly Cissokho broke the deadlock with his first Ligue 1 goal for Lyon but was later sent off after his misplaced breath prompted Nenê to tumble dramatically in the Lyon box. Guillaume Hoarau’s penalty put PSG 2-1 up with seven minutes to play, Nenê having equalised just after the hour with a rare header, but a dreadful kick by visiting goalkeeper Apoula Edel allowed Bafétimbi Gomis to lash in an 87th-minute equaliser.
The point took Paris to within a point of second-placed Lille – who drew 1-1 at Bordeaux – and ahead of Montpellier on goal difference. Lyon remained eighth, level on points with Bordeaux, and go into the weekend three points off top spot. Brest, meanwhile, snapped a three-game winless streak to beat Lens 4-1 on Tuesday and are now back in the top three.
Caen look in a lot of bother after a 3-0 defeat at home to Sochaux left them third from bottom and without a win in nine games. “There’s lots of fear: the players look at each other in the eyes but there’s no-one who shouts louder than the others,” said Caen coach Franck Dumas. “They’re good guys, but not for Ligue 1.”
Goal of the week: Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes 3-0 Arles-Avignon):
Player of the week: Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon)
Occasionally maligned for his poor strike rate and occasionally clumsy comportment in opposition penalty areas (think Emile Heskey with dreadlocks), Gomis produced an emphatic reminder of his gifts in the draw against PSG. The 25-year-old has been used as cover for the injury-prone Lisandro López in recent weeks, but against Paris the Argentine was made to play a supporting role on the left flank as Gomis excelled in a lone central position. His touch and link-up play were excellent, while he threatened in the air on several occasions, and he had the presence of mind in the game’s dying stages to seize upon Edel’s loose clearance before lashing home the equaliser with a powerful drive from just inside the box. His superb performance earned praise from both coach Claude Puel and, notably, the sceptical Stade Gerland, who chanted his name throughout. “It felt good,” admitted Gomis. “I was touched.”
Quote of the week
“It reminded me of the match here against Bayern [in last season's Champions League semi-finals]. The players weren’t like they were in the first leg. They ran much faster and for much longer. I don’t know what kind of preparation they’d done, but their physical capacities were striking. We were beaten so much physically that it was a bit too much… You see that players are not always on equal terms.”
– Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas wonders aloud whether his side’s abject capitulation to Schalke last week was actually because the German side were on drugs. Sour grapes much?
Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Bruno Grougi scored two goals and supplied two assists in Brest’s 4-1 win over Lens. The last player to achieve the feat in Ligue 1 was Pauleta, in PSG’s 4-0 defeat of Nantes in April 2007.
10: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen), Moussa Sow (Lille)
8: Nenê (PSG), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
7: Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
6: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient), Gervinho (Lille), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux)
7: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
5: Anthony Mounier (Nice)
4: Marco Estrada (Montpellier), Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
Week 16 fixtures
Saturday: Arles-Avignon v Nancy, Lens v Auxerre, Lille v Lorient, Rennes v Monaco, Sochaux v Valenciennes, Toulouse v Caen, Montpellier v Lyon; Sunday: Nice v Marseille, PSG v Brest, Saint-Etienne v Bordeaux
PSG continued their magnificent European form with a rousing 4-2 victory at home to Sevilla on Thursday night that secured their place in the next round of the Europa League and leaves the Spanish side vying with Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund for the remaining qualifying berth in Group J. Lille lost 1-0 at Sporting and must now win their final Group C game at home to Gent to reach the last 32.