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.
Exactly a month ago, Football Further speculated that, were Lille to fail to win Ligue 1, Dariusz Dudka’s late equaliser in their 1-1 draw at Auxerre would be pinpointed as a key turning point. Should they go on and triumph, however, Pierre-Alain Frau’s 91st-minute winner at Marseille last Sunday could be seen as the goal that changed the course of the title race.
As so often in recent weeks, the fixture list meant Lille had had to watch their rivals whittle down their lead before stepping onto the field at the Vélodrome. Rennes were three points in front after making it five wins from five with a 1-0 success at Montpellier, while Lyon were just a point behind thanks to a 5-0 shellacking of Arles-Avignon. Victory for OM, meanwhile, would have taken the champions two points above their opponents.
Eden Hazard gave the visitors the lead with a stunningly opportunistic 35-yard strike (see below), before Loïc Rémy equalised with half an hour to play. It seemed that Lille would be left to rue the hasty finishing of Gervinho and Moussa Sow during the first half, but in the first minute of injury time, super-sub Frau got ahead of Gabriel Heinze to steer home Emerson’s centre and bring OM’s four-game winning run to an end.
Elsewhere, Auxerre’s 16-game winless streak finally finished, and in some style, as Kamel Chafni’s sumptuous half-volley snatched a 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain. Bordeaux’s mini-revival continued with a 3-1 victory at Brest, but Saturday’s fare produced a frankly preposterous goals-per-game average of just 0.66.
Marseille’s trip to Rennes tonight kicks off the Week 27 action, but the visitors will be without Brazilian striker/pony-tailed carthorse Brandão after he was formally placed under police investigation over allegations that he raped a 23-year-old woman following a night out in Aix-en-Provence.
Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Caen 1-0 Saint-Etienne, Lorient 0-0 Nancy, Montpellier 0-1 Rennes, Nice 0-0 Lens, Toulouse 0-1 Sochaux, Valenciennes 0-0 Monaco, Auxerre 1-0 PSG; Sunday: Brest 1-3 Bordeaux, Lyon 5-0 Arles-Avignon, Marseille 1-2 Lille
Goal of the week: Eden Hazard (Marseille 1-2 Lille):
Player of the week: Lisandro López (Lyon)
Despite having spent three weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring complaint, Lisandro produced one of his finest performances of the season by claiming a perfect hat-trick – right foot, header, left foot – in the 5-0 demolition of Arles, as well as teeing up Miralem Pjanić for OL’s second goal with a delightful back-heel. The Argentine professes not to mind playing on the left flank in order to accommodate Bafétimbi Gomis at centre-forward – and there is certainly far more to his game than goalscoring alone - but Sunday’s performance showed that his penalty-box instincts remain as sharp as ever. With 11 goals he is now the joint-fifth top scorer in Ligue 1 and on track to surpass last season’s mark of 15.
Quote of the week
“It’s a high price to pay for a joke. They have no sense of humour.”
- Cédric Enjolras, president of village side FC Borne, after a prank bid for Lionel Messi earned him a six-month ban (with three months suspended) from the French Football Federation
Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Lyon’s 5-0 win against Arles-Avignon was their biggest in Ligue 1 under Claude Puel.
17: Moussa Sow (Lille)
15: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
13: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen), Nenê (PSG)
11: Gervinho (Lille), Lisandro López (Lyon), Modibo Maïga (Sochaux)
10: Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
9: Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Park Chu-Young (Monaco)
8: Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)
7: Razak Boukari (Rennes), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Victor Hugo Montaño (Rennes)
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), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes)
Week 27 fixtures
Friday: Rennes v Marseille; Saturday: Arles-Avignon v Lorient, Lens v Toulouse, Nancy v Caen, Nice v Auxerre, Saint-Etienne v Brest, Sochaux v Lyon; Sunday: Bordeaux v Monaco, Lille v Valenciennes, PSG v Montpellier
As predicted with uncanny clairvoyance by certain experts, PSG emerged from the away leg of their Europa League last 16 tie against Benfica with a potentially pivotal away goal in a 2-1 defeat. Peguy Luyindula broke the deadlock from Nenê’s astute pass in the 14th minute before Mevlut Erding volleyed against the right-hand post from close range following another inch-perfect Nenê delivery. The hosts roused themselves eventually, however, with Maxi Pereira equalising before half-time and substitute Franco Jara netting the winner with a low strike into the bottom-right corner in the 81st minute. The return leg at Parc des Princes is next Thursday.
Coupe de France
The draw for the Coupe de France semi-finals last Sunday drew sighs of relief from neutrals across France as Lille and holders PSG were kept apart. PSG must travel to Angers of Ligue 2, with Lille away at Nice.