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.
Another misstep from Lille allowed Marseille to close to within a point of the leaders in Week 31, while Paris Saint-Germain confirmed their return to form by beating Lyon 1-0 and relauching their bid for a Champions League place.
Lille were held to a 1-1 draw by Bordeaux last Saturday – Vujadin Savić cancelling out Moussa Sow’s 21st goal of the season with a near-post header from a corner – but Rudi Garcia refused to sound the alarm and said he had been much more encouraged by his team’s performance than in the 1-0 loss at Monaco the week before.
Marseille capitalised by winning 2-1 at Montpellier, but as so often this season, they elected to do things the hard way. Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock for the hosts but OM replied immediately through a fine André-Pierre Gignac strike (see below) before Taye Taiwo completed the comeback from the spot. Loïc Rémy won the penalty after being held back by Abdelhamid El Kaoutari but both men were then sent off for a needless spot of argy-bargy, meaning they will both be in the stands for Saturday’s Coupe de la Ligue final.
PSG recorded their second win on the spin with a superb victory over Lyon at Parc des Princes. Antoine Kombouaré’s side completely bossed the first half but had to weather a Lyon flurry early in the second before an untidy goal by Zoumana Camara secured the points. It left Lyon six points off Lille’s pace and just a point above fourth-placed PSG.
Auxerre leapt clear of the relegation zone after a stunning injury-time free-kick by Dariusz Dudka snatched a 1-0 win at Toulouse, with Caen slipping into the bottom three thanks to a 3-2 reverse at Sochaux. Arles-Avignon were finally put out of their misery by Valenciennes and Lens are now six points from safety following a 1-1 draw with Brest.
Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Lens 1-1 Brest, Nice 3-2 Monaco, Rennes 1-2 Lorient, Saint-Etienne 2-1 Nancy, Sochaux 3-2 Caen, Toulouse 0-1 Auxerre, Lille 1-1 Bordeaux; Sunday: Arles-Avignon 0-1 Valenciennes, Montpellier 1-2 Marseille, PSG 1-0 Lyon
Goal of the week: André-Pierre Gignac (Montpellier 1-2 Marseille):
Player of the week: Mamadou Sakho (PSG)
Zoumana Camara may have had a Facebook page dedicated to his left knee set up in honour of his winning goal against Lyon, but the key figure in the PSG defence was Mamadou Sakho. Despite being 11 years younger than his centre-back partner, Sakho was unquestionably the senior figure against Lyon, marshalling the defence with uncanny assurance and laying his body on the line time and again to prevent the visitors from finding a fissure in the Paris back-line. Philippe Mexes’s knee ligament injury means Sakho is in line to start for France in their Euro 2012 qualifier in Belarus on June 3 and PSG’s resolve to hold onto the 21-year-old will surely be tested this summer.
Quote of the week
“We’ll miss him in the changing room because he creates an atmosphere and he makes everyone laugh. But we have a laugh by telling him we won’t miss him on the pitch because he gives us all a headache. And it’s tiring!”
– Sylvain Armand looks forward to the imminent retirement of his 38-year-old PSG team-mate, Claude Makelele
Stat of the week
Marseille have picked up 15 points from losing positions in Ligue 1 this season – the best record in the division.
21: Moussa Sow (Lille)
17: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
16: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
14: Lisandro López (Lyon), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
13: Modibo Maïga (Sochaux), Nenê (PSG)
12: Gervinho (Lille), Park Chu-Young (Monaco), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
11: Brown Ideye (Sochaux)
10: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)
8: Gaël Danic (Valenciennes), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG)
12: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
10: Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
9: Gervinho (Lille)
8: Morgan Amalfitano (Lorient)
7: Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Eden Hazard (Lille)
6: Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes), Nenê (PSG)
Week 32 fixtures
Sunday: Auxerre v Lens, Bordeaux v Saint-Etienne, Brest v PSG, Caen v Toulouse, Monaco v Rennes, Nancy v Arles-Avignon, Valenciennes v Sochaux, Lorient v Lille; Wednesday: Lyon v Montpellier, Marseille v Nice
Coupe de France
It may not rank alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid’s current El Clasico marathon, but Lille and PSG will meet each other twice in the space of seven days next month after both came through their Coupe de France semi-finals in mid-week. Lille put their recent league woes to one side to win 2-0 at Nice on Tuesday, with goals either side of half-time from Eden Hazard and Gervinho. L’Équipe was moved to proclaim ‘Nenê is back’ on Thursday, meanwhile, after the Brazilian inspired PSG to a comfortable 3-1 win at Ligue 2 Angers with two assists and a goal – his first since January 8.
The final on May 14 will be Lille’s first since they last won the tournament in 1955, but cup specialists PSG will be appearing in their sixth Coupe de France decider in nine seasons. Whoever ends on the losing side will not have long to wait to exact revenge: PSG host Lille on the penultimate day of the season on May 21.
Coupe de la Ligue
Holders Marseille and Montpellier meet at Stade de France tomorrow night to contest the first major piece of silverware of the season. Marseille’s defeat of Bordeaux in last season’s final proved the catalyst for their late-season surge to the Ligue 1 title, while Montpellier are bidding for their first trophy since the 1990 Coupe de France. “For the Marseille players, it would be almost normal to win,” says Montpellier striker Giroud. “But for us it would be a real exploit and it would be great for the club if we managed to lift this title.”