La semaine en France: Week 24

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
Having managed to avoid defeat since a 3-1 loss at home to Marseille in Week 10, Lille’s resistance finally buckled when they fell to a 1-0 loss in a scrappy and otherwise unremarkable game at Montpellier last Sunday.

Moroccan starlet Younes Belhanda scored the game’s only goal in the 84th minute, charging at the retreating Lille defence from the right flank, circumventing Adil Rami’s impromptu war dance on the edge of the box and drilling a deflected shot into the bottom-left corner. To make matters worse for Lille, all their title rivals won.

Rennes are now just two points off the pace in second place following a 2-1 win at Toulouse, while Marseille, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain are all within four points of the leaders. Marseille moved up to third place by beating Saint-Etienne 2-1 in a fractious affair at the Vélodrome, but the night ended on a sour note for the champions after André-Pierre Gignac had to go off with a groin injury that ruled him out of the Champions League match with Manchester United.

Lyon and PSG remain level on points in fourth and fifth place respectively after both enjoyed one-sided victories. Lyon ran out 4-0 victors at home to Nancy on Friday night, while PSG outclassed Nice 3-0 on Sunday.

The week’s most eye-catching result was Bordeaux’s 5-1 capitulation at Lorient (after a tidy hat-trick from Kévin Gameiro), which prompted Bordeaux coach Jean Tigana to admit that the 2009 champions are now officially in crisis. There were red cards for Lorient full-back Franco Sosa and Bordeaux goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso – who was sent off for twice handling the ball outside his area – while Sochaux’s 3-2 win at Lens also finished with 10 men on each side after Toifilou Maoulida and Kévin Anin both saw red following a first-half tête-à-tête.

Ligue 1 results
Friday: Lyon 4-0 Nancy; Saturday: Auxerre 1-1 Arles-Avignon, Brest 2-0 Monaco, Caen 2-2 Valenciennes, Lens 2-3 Sochaux, Marseille 2-1 Saint-Etienne, Lorient 5-1 Bordeaux; Sunday: Montpellier 1-0 Lille, Nice 0-3 PSG, Toulouse 1-2 Rennes

Ligue 1 table

Goal of the week: Jimmy Briand (Lyon 4-0 Nancy):

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Player of the week: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
That Gameiro wishes to leave Lorient to further his career is the worst kept secret in French football, but despite a move to Valencia falling through in January, he continues to apply himself with laudable professionalism. Bordeaux are the latest side able to tesify that Gameiro’s mind is unquestionably in the right place. His first and third goals in the 5-1 rout may have been tap-ins – albeit beautifully worked tap-ins – but his second, in the 38th minute, was a work of real class: tearing onto Arnold Mvuemba’s through-ball, he sold Carrasso with a wonderful shake of the hips on the edge of the box before slotting the ball into the vacated net. He now has seven goals in his last four Ligue 1 games and is just one goal behind Moussa Sow in the battle for the golden boot.

Quote of the week
“Behind the ‘big guns’ like Chelsea or Manchester [United], there’s  also Sunderland or Wolverhampton. French players who are used to touching the ball end up watching it fly over their heads for 90 minutes.”
– Marseille sporting director José Anigo has some words of advice for any budding Ligue 1 talents dreaming of plying their trade in the Premier League

Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
After seven matches without a victory against them, Lyon are the team that Real Madrid have faced the most times in the Champions League without ever winning.

Top goalscorers
16: Moussa Sow (Lille)
15: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
13: Nenê (PSG)
11: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen), Gervinho (Lille)
10: Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Modibo Maïga (Sochaux),  Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
9: Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux),
8: Lisandro López (Lyon), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
7: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Park Chu-Young (Monaco), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)

Top assists
11: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
8: Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
7: Gervinho (Lille)
6: Morgan Amalfitano (Lorient), Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Eden Hazard (Lille)

Week 25 fixtures
Saturday: Arles-Avignon v Brest, Monaco v Caen, Rennes v Lens, Saint-Etienne v Nice, Sochaux v Montpellier, Valenciennes v Lorient, Bordeaux v Auxerre; Saturday: Nancy v Marseille, PSG v Toulouse, Lille v Lyon

Europe
Both Lyon and Marseille are well placed to reach the Champions League quarter-finals after drawing the first legs of their respective last-16 ties this week. Karim Benzema ended Real Madrid’s long wait for a Champions League goal at his former club Lyon, a matter of seconds after coming on as a second-half substitute at Stade Gerland, but a Bafétimbi Gomis equaliser in the 83rd minute rescued a 1-1 draw. Marseille’s dreary 0-0 draw at home to Manchester United on Wednesday was nowhere near as entertaining, but Didier Deschamps was delighted with a clean sheet. An away goal in the return leg at Old Trafford on March 15 will quickly tilt the momentum in OM’s favour.

Lille’s week to forget continued as they went down 3-1 at PSV Eindhoven to be eliminated from the Europa League. Pierre-Alain Frau gave the visitors a 22nd-minute lead but was later sent off for two bookable offences, before PSV turned the game around to set up a last-16 meeting with Rangers. PSG face an appetising tie against Benfica after they went through on away goals following a 0-0 draw at home to BATE Borisov, which featured an eye-catching home debut for the magnificently christened Neeskens Kebano.

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