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.
A handful of surprise results saw Lyon, Rennes and champions Marseille fall off the pace in the title race, while Paris Saint-Germain tightened their grip on second place and Bordeaux ended a six-match winless run stretching back to the end of November.
Lyon’s 13-game unbeaten streak came to an abrupt halt in a 2-1 loss at Valenciennes, with Aly Cissokho the chief culprit in an error-strewn performance and Yoann Gourcuff worryingly off the pace. It followed hot on the heels of a 1-0 defeat by Nice in the Coupe de France and left Claude Puel’s side seven points off the pace in third place. Marseille are a point worse off in fifth, after a wretched goalless draw at third-bottom Monaco that Didier Deschamps branded “rubbish”. Mathieu Valbuena’s absence is already being felt at the Vélodrome.
The most unexpected result of the weekend, however, was Rennes’ 5-1 capitulation at Sochaux. Having previously conceded just 12 goals all season, the Breton side went into the game with the best defensive record in the league but were torn apart by a Sochaux side boasting Marvin Martin, Brown Ideye and Modibo Maïga on top form. Rennes had goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez sent off (forcing midfielder Alexander Tettey to do a turn between the sticks) and finished the game with nine men following injuries to Kader Mangane and Stéphane Dalmat.
A neat finish from Brazilian striker Túlio de Melo saw Lille maintain their momentum – and their four-point lead – with a 1-0 win at home to neighbours Lens. Mevlut Erding was on target twice as PSG won 2-1 at Arles-Avignon, while Bordeaux coach Jean Tigana said his side’s 2-0 victory over Nice was the first time they had managed “two full halves” all season. The 2009 champions are now four points outside the Champions League places in eighth.
Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Arles-Avignon 1-2 PSG, Caen 2-0 Auxerre, Lorient 2-0 Brest, Saint-Etienne 2-1 Toulouse, Sochaux 5-1 Rennes, Valenciennes 2-1 Lyon, Lille 1-0 Lens; Sunday: Bordeaux 2-0 Nice, Nancy 1-2 Montpellier, Monaco 0-0 Marseille
France saw none of the jaw-dropping last-minute deals that characterised the final day of the January transfer window in England, with the biggest headlines created by the players that stayed put. Kévin Gameiro’s long-mooted switch to Valencia failed to materialise and Dimitri Payet didn’t join PSG, despite having travelled to the capital with his entourage in a vain bid to make the move happen (club president Roland Romeyer said he would be fined, but forgiven). One man who did slip through the Ligue 1 net was Stéphane Sessegnon, who completed a €7 million move to Sunderland from PSG.
Monaco tied up a number of late deals, bringing in former Lyon midfield rock Mahamadou Diarra from Real Madrid and securing loan moves for CSKA Moscow forward Moussa Maazou (who was hounded out of Bordeaux by the club’s fans and promptly sustained a season-ending knee injury upon arriving on the south coast) and Honduran World Cup star Georgie Welcome. Former Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne favourite Pascal Feindouno also pitched up at Stade Louis II, signing his new contract at the airport on deadline day after jetting in from Qatari side Al Sadd.
Bordeaux filled the gap left by Maazou’s exit by signing 20-year-old Brazilian prospect André on loan from Dynamo Kiev. The former Santos forward has been included in Brazil’s squad to face France next week and Tigana and president Jean-Louis Triaud made plain their delight at his arrival by turning up for his official presentation in matching roll-neck sweaters.
Goal of the week: Deme N’Diaye (Arles-Avignon 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain; 1:31):http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xgt3xa
Player of the week: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
Martin is already streaking clear at the top of the assists chart but he managed to get on the scoresheet himself in the 5-1 humbling of Rennes, curling home left-footed from the edge of the box to put Les Lionceaux 2-0 up before half-time (having earlier teed up Maïga’s opener with a typically deft half-volleyed cross from the left flank). Teased by his team-mates after being likened to Xavi by L’Equipe in November, the 23-year-old childhood PSG fan had been quietly tipped to win a call-up for France’s friendly with Brazil next Wednesday, but missed out.
Quote of the week
“I’m not worried. I’m very, very worried.”
– Rennes coach Frédéric Antonetti on the prospect of PSG’s visit on Saturday, after his suddenly leaky team went down 4-3 in extra time to Ligue 2 Reims in the Coupe de France last 16
Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Marseille registered just one shot on target against Monaco, their lowest total in a Ligue 1 game this season.
15: Moussa Sow (Lille)
13: Nenê (PSG)
11: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
10: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient), Gervinho (Lille)
9: Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Modibo Maïga (Sochaux)
8: Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Lisandro López (Lyon), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
7: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier)
10: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
7: Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
6: Gervinho (Lille), Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Eden Hazard (Lille)
5: Marco Estrada (Montpellier)
Week 22 fixtures
Saturday: Brest v Nancy, Caen v Lorient, Lens v Valenciennes, Marseille v Arles-Avignon, Montpellier v Saint-Etienne, Nice v Sochaux, Rennes v PSG; Sunday: Auxerre v Lille, Toulouse v Monaco, Lyon v Bordeaux
Coupe de France
The shocks continued to run thick and fast in France’s premier domestic cup in mid-week. Fifth-tier Chambéry led the way on Wednesday evening, with Aïssa Yahia-Bey’s 25-yard howitzer completing a 2-1 comeback win at home to Sochaux. The team from the Savoy region thus became the first side from the fifth level of French football to secure consecutive Coupe de France wins against three top-flight teams, following previous victories on penalties over Monaco and Brest.
Ligue 2 representatives Reims and Le Mans saw off Rennes and Nancy, while Lille required a penalty shootout to see off fallen giants Nantes. PSG, Lorient and Nice all made it safely through to the last eight, with Guillaume Hoarau claiming his first professional hat-trick in Paris’s 4-1 win at Martigues and Gameiro recording his second brace of the week in Lorient’s 3-0 defeat of Metz.
Patrice Evra’s tenure as France’s first-choice left-back appears over after he was left out of France’s squad to tackle Brazil at Stade de France. Éric Abidal is now firmly installed as Laurent Blanc’s preferred number three, and Blanc is understandably in no hurry to discover what kind of effect the sight of the former captain glowering on the bench would have on team morale. Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny earned his first call-up, while Jérémy Menez has been given another opportunity to prove his worth with Samir Nasri, Franck Ribéry and Valbuena laid low by injury.