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.
Marseille are bloodied but they are not beaten yet. Lille’s 2-1 victory at Saint-Etienne on Tuesday saw OM fall seven points off the pace in the title race, but the champions defeated Brest 3-0 the following day and will be just a point behind Lille the next time the league leaders take to the field if they win at Lorient on Sunday.
An Eden Hazard free-kick saw Lille win 1-0 at Nancy last Saturday, while they were indebted to a superb performance by goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau – featuring a stunning, one-handed penalty save to deny Bakary Sako – at Saint-Etienne. Lille’s dominance increased as the minutes ticked by against Les Verts, however, and they eventually prevailed through a deflected strike from captain Rio Mavuba.
Marseille’s challenge appeared over after they sank to a 3-2 defeat in a thrilling game at Lyon last Sunday, in which Cris slammed home an 84th-minute winner after OM had fought back to level from 2-0 down, but the customary effervescence of André and Jordan Ayew inspired them to a comfortable win over Brest that keeps them in Lille’s slipstream.
As so often this season, Lyon lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous by getting stuffed 4-0 at Auxerre on Wednesday. Dennis Oliech had already put the hosts ahead when Dejan Lovren saw red following a clumsy foul on the Kenyan, and things went downhill – rapidly – from there. Luckily for OL, Paris Saint-Germain appear just as reluctant to stake a claim for third place after successive draws against Monaco and Nancy.
Sochaux brought an end to Jean Tigana’s reign as Bordeaux coach by thrashing Les Girondins 4-0 and their subsequent 3-0 defeat of Monaco took them four points clear of Lorient in the scrap for sixth place. Nancy remain in the bottom three, a point behind Monaco but only four points shy of 13th-placed Valenciennes.
Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Arles-Avignon 0-1 Saint-Etienne, Auxerre 1-0 Montpellier, Bordeaux 0-4 Sochaux, Brest 0-0 Nice, Caen 1-1 Lens, Lorient 0-0 Toulouse, Monaco 1-1 PSG, Nancy 0-1 Lille; Sunday: Valenciennes 2-0 Rennes, Lyon 3-2 Marseille; Tuesday: PSG 2-2 Nancy, Saint-Etienne 1-2 Lille; Wednesday: Auxerre 4-0 Lyon, Lens 1-0 Bordeaux, Montpellier 3-1 Lorient, Nice 3-2 Arles-Avignon, Rennes 1-1 Caen, Sochaux 3-0 Monaco, Toulouse o-0 Valenciennes, Marseille 3-0 Brest
Goal of the week: Jamel Saihi (Montpellier 3-1 Lorient):
Player of the week: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
Mickaël Landreau’s performance in Lille’s victory at Saint-Etienne could prove to be one of the key turning points in the Ligue 1 title race, but it would be remiss not to acknowledge the contribution of Marvin Martin to Sochaux’s ongoing march up the standings. The 23-year-old playmaker – christened ‘The Little Xavi’ by L’Équipe – set up three goals in Sochaux’s 4-0 win at Bordeaux and then helped himself to another assist in the 3-0 defeat of Monaco that galvanised Les Lionceaux‘ grip on sixth place. Nominated this week for the Ligue 1 young player of the season award, he has also been tipped for a France call-up when Laurent Blanc names an enlarged squad to face Belarus, Ukraine and Poland at the beginning of June.
Quote of the week
“There is nothing to suggest that Laurent Blanc in any way gave his support to disciminatory actions.”
– French sports minister Chantal Jouanno announces that Laurent Blanc has been cleared of wrongdoing in the dual-nationality quota row after a two-pronged investigation by the French Football Federation and the French sports ministry
Stat of the week (courtesy of Opta Jean)
Lyon have conceded 1.11 goals per game in Ligue 1 this season, their worst record since 1999-00 (1.24 per game).
21: Moussa Sow (Lille)
20: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
17: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
16: Lisandro López (Lyon)
15: Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
14: Gervinho (Lille), Modibo Maïga (Sochaux), Nenê (PSG)
13: Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
12: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Park Chu-Young (Monaco), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)
10: André Ayew (Marseille), Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux)
9: Gaël Danic (Valenciennes), Bruno Grougi (Brest)
16: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
10: Morgan Amalfitano (Lorient), Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
9: Gervinho (Lille), Eden Hazard (Lille)
8: Ludovic Giuly (PSG)
7: Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Renaud Cohade (Valenciennes), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes)
6: Marco Estrada (Montpellier), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Nenê (PSG)
Week 36 fixtures
Sunday: Arles-Avignon v Toulouse, Caen v Montpellier, Monaco v Lens, Nancy v Nice, Saint-Etienne v Rennes, Valenciennes v Auxerre, Lorient v Marseille; Monday: Brest v Lyon; Wednesday: Bordeaux v PSG, Lille v Sochaux
Coupe de France
Holders PSG, making their sixth final appearance in nine seasons, face aspiring double-winners Lille in Saturday’s Coupe de France final at Stade de France. Read my AFP preview here.