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.
You wait 56 years for a major trophy, and then two come along at once. Eight days after ending a 56-year wait to win the Coupe de France by beating Paris Saint-Germain at Stade de France, Lille ended a 57-year wait for the Ligue 1 championship following a 2-2 draw against the same opponents down the road at Parc des Princes.
Few would argue that Rudi Garcia’s side are not worthy champions, and the title-clinching performance showcased plenty of the grit that saw them to crucial victories during the title run-in. Twice Lille went ahead, twice PSG replied, with Mathieu Bodmer’s belting 73rd-minute strike for the hosts cancelling out a close-range Moussa Sow effort that had put Lille 2-1 up moments after Guillaume Hoarau was shown a second yellow card for diving. Sow’s goal was his 22nd off the campaign, nudging him in front of Kévin Gameiro in the race for the Trophée du Meilleur Buteur.
Marseille’s 2-2 draw at home to Valenciennes meant that Lille could have afforded to lose, but OM are at least now assured of automatic Champions League qualification. The battle for the third qualifying slot will go down to the final day, meanwhile, but PSG must win at Saint-Etienne and hope Lyon slip up at Monaco to stand any chance of overhauling them. Sochaux secured their place in the Europa League after a Brown Ideye brace procured a 2-1 win over Saint-Etienne and all the teams within touching distance lost.
The relegation scrap could not be any tauter, with just three points separating 10th-placed Toulouse and third-bottom Monaco. A second-half Benjamin Moukandjo goal was enough for Monaco to win at Montpellier, but Laurent Banide’s side will still start the final day in the drop zone, a point behind Nancy, Caen and Valenciennes but with a better goal difference than four of the five sides immediately above them.
Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Auxerre 0-1 Brest, Lens 0-1 Arles-Avignon, Lyon 0-0 Caen, Marseille 2-2 Valenciennes, Montpellier 0-1 Monaco, Nice 2-0 Lorient, PSG 2-2 Lille, Rennes 0-2 Nancy, Sochaux 2-1 Saint-Etienne, Toulouse 2-0 Bordeaux
Goal of the week: Larsen Touré (Auxerre 0-1 Brest)
Player of the week: Eric Mouloungui (Nice)
For teams scrapping for points at the foot of the table, a striker who guarantees at least 10 goals a season is worth his weight in gold. Had Lens or Arles-Avignon been able to call upon Monaco’s Park Chu-Young (12 goals), Valenciennes’ Grégory Pujol (15) or Caen’s Youssef El-Arabi (17), they might not have succumbed to the fates that befell them. Nice do not currently have a 10-goal striker, but in Eric Mouloungui they do possess a goalscorer who has come into form at just the right time. Scorer of the winning goal against Auxerre in Week 27, an injury-time penalty in the 2-2 draw with Lyon in Week 29 and what proved to be the decisive goal in the 3-2 defeat of Monaco in Week 31, the Gabonese international claimed a coolly taken first-half brace against Lorient last weekend that means his side go into their trip to Valenciennes with a two-point cushion between themselves and the relegation places. He may not have breached the 10-goal barrier, but without the 10 points that Mouloungui’s goals have yielded, Nice would already be in Ligue 2.
Quote of the week
“At that price, I wouldn’t even pick up the phone.”
– Sochaux president Alexandre Lacombe gives short shrift to reports German champions Borussia Dortmund are assembling a €6 million offer for in-demand playmaker Marvin Martin
Stat of the week (courtesy of France Football)
Marseille spent more on Andre-Pierre Gignac (€16.5m) than Lille did on their entire title-winning team (€14.6m).
22: Moussa Sow (Lille)
21: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
17: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
16: Lisandro López (Lyon)
15: Gervinho (Lille), Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
14: Modibo Maïga (Sochaux), Nenê (PSG), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)
13: Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
12: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Park Chu-Young (Monaco)
11: André Ayew (Marseille)
10: Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux)
17: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
12: Morgan Amalfitano (Lorient)
10: Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
9: Gervinho (Lille), Eden Hazard (Lille)
8: Renaud Cohade (Valenciennes), Ludovic Giuly (PSG)
7: Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes), Nenê (PSG)
6: Ryad Boudebouz (Sochaux), Gaël Danic (Valenciennes), Marco Estrada (Montpellier), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Romain Hamouma (Caen), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG)
Week 38 fixtures
Sunday: Arles-Avignon v Sochaux, Bordeaux v Montpellier, Brest v Toulouse, Caen v Marseille, Lille v Rennes, Lorient v Auxerre, Monaco v Lyon, Nancy v Lens, Saint-Etienne v PSG, Valenciennes v Nice
Laurent Blanc named an enlarged – but still smaller than expected – squad on Friday for the Euro 2012 qualifier in Belarus on June 3 and the friendly games in Ukraine and Poland the week after. Marvin Martin was rewarded for a magnificent season with his first ever call-up to the senior squad, Éric Abidal returned after undergoing surgery to remove a tumour on his liver in March, and Wigan Athletic’s Charles N’Zogbia was surprisingly recalled for the first time since winning his first cap in the 2-1 defeat against Norway in Oslo in August.
The Union nationale des footballeurs professionnels (UNFP) handed out their annual gongs last Sunday, with Eden Hazard getting the nod for Ligue 1 player of the season and Mamadou Sakho inheriting the Belgian’s crown as the division’s outstanding young player. Garcia got the nod in the coaches’ category. No surprises there, then, although Hazard’s team-mate Gervinho did concede that he thought it was “a joke” when he found out he had not been nominated himself. How very sporting of him.
The team of the season (in customarily ludicrous 4-1-3-2 formation) was as follows: Steve Mandanda (Marseille); Anthony Réveillère (Lyon), Adil Rami (Lille), Mamadou Sakho (PSG), Taye Taiwo (Marseille); Yann M’Vila (Rennes); Gervinho (Lille), Eden Hazard (Lille), Nenê (PSG); Kévin Gameiro (Lorient), Moussa Sow (Lille)