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.
With an inevitably that feels like it has been building for about two months, Marseille returned to the Ligue 1 summit after a 4-2 win at Mediterranean neighbours Nice on Wednesday night.
Lille’s 1-1 draw at Lorient last Sunday – a magnificent game of football – had given the champions an opportunity to sneak to the top of the pile that they duly took, thanks to a hat-trick from André Ayew and a first league goal of the season for his younger sibling, Jordan. Four days on from their victory over Montpellier in the Coupe de la Ligue final, Marseille are exactly where they were at this stage last season – top of the table with a trophy in the bag and the finishing line in sight. Lille’s hopes of overhauling the leaders may well depend on Lyon’s ability to do them a favour when they host OM on May 8.
Lyon galvanised their grip on third place with a 3-2 defeat of Montpellier. Claude Puel reacted to Souleymane Camara’s 84th-minute equaliser for Montpellier by sending on Yoann Gourcuff in place of Bafétimbi Gomis, much to the disgust of Lisandro López, but three minutes later the Argentine headed down a high ball for Gourcuff to slam home his most important goal to date in Lyon’s colours.
OL are now three points above Paris Saint-Germain in the battle for the last Champions League place after a truly wretched performance from reserve goalkeeper Apoula Edel saw PSG held to a 2-2 draw at Brest. Rennes are without a win in six matches after going down 1-0 at Monaco, who leapt up to 15th place. Marseille’s Coupe de la Ligue win means the team that finishes sixth will now qualify for next season’s Europa League and Bordeaux moved into pole position with an impressive 2-0 victory over Saint-Etienne that suggests their season might not be over just yet.
Ligue 1 results
Sunday: Auxerre 1-1 Lens, Bordeaux 2-0 Saint-Etienne, Brest 2-2 PSG, Caen 1-1 Toulouse, Monaco 1-0 Rennes, Nancy 0-0 Arles-Avignon, Valenciennes 1-1 Sochaux, Lorient 1-1 Lille; Wednesday: Lyon 3-2 Montpellier, Marseille 4-2 Nice
Goal of the week: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient 1-1 Lille)
Player of the week: André Ayew (Marseille)
Having failed to distinguish himself in last weekend’s Coupe de la Ligue final, Ayew more than made up for it on Wednesday as his first senior hat-trick helped to condemn Nice to defeat. His first goal was an opportunistic strike, volleying into an unguarded net after David Ospina had spilled a Mathieu Valbuena corner, before he converted a pair of superb right-wing crosses from Rod Fanni and his brother Jordan in the second half to claim his second and third goals. With 10 goals and one assist to his name so far, the Ghana international – a nominee for the Best Young Player award at last summer’s World Cup – has been without doubt OM’s most effective attacking player this season.
Quote of the week
“Marseille come up to Paris to fuck PSG!”
– Microphone in hand, match-winner Taye Taiwo gets a little bit carried away during the Coupe de la Ligue post-match celebrations by leading the Marseille fans in a chorus of one of their favourite chants. He has been summoned to appear before the French Football Federation’s National Ethics Council (CNE) on May 5.
Stat of the week (courtesy of Opta Jean)
Twelve of Morgan Amalfitano’s 15 assists in Ligue 1 for Lorient have been for Kévin Gameiro.
21: Moussa Sow (Lille)
18: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
16: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
15: Lisandro López (Lyon)
14: Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
13: Modibo Maïga (Sochaux), Nenê (PSG)
12: Gervinho (Lille), Park Chu-Young (Monaco), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
11: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Brown Ideye (Sochaux)
10: André Ayew (Marseille), Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)
9: Bruno Grougi (Brest)
8: Gaël Danic (Valenciennes), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG)
12: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
10: Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
9: Morgan Amalfitano (Lorient), Gervinho (Lille)
7: Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Eden Hazard (Lille)
6: Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Renaud Cohade (Valenciennes), Marco Estrada (Montpellier), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes), Nenê (PSG)
Week 33 fixtures
Saturday: Lens v Lorient, Lille v Arles-Avignon, Rennes v Bordeaux, Sochaux v Nancy, PSG v Valenciennes; Sunday: Marseille v Auxerre, Montpellier v Brest, Nice v Caen, Toulouse v Lyon, Saint-Etienne v Monaco
Coupe de la Ligue
Taiwo’s 80th-minute strike – with his weaker right foot – earned Marseille a 1-0 victory over Montpellier in last Saturday’s final, making Didier Deschamps’s team the first side to retain the trophy in its 17-year history. Montpellier stiffened their midfield in a bid to prevent Marseille settling into a rhythm and the result was a rugged, untidy game in which the intelligent promptings of Valbuena – deployed, for the first time, as a false nine – were one of the few highlights. Read my AFP match report here.