‘La semaine en France’

La semaine en France: Week 38

This season’s final 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.

Ligue 1
After 34 years in France’s top flight, during which they won five league titles, three Coupes de France, one Coupe de la Ligue and finished runners-up in the 2003-04 Champions League, Monaco were relegated to Ligue 2 following a 2-0 defeat by Lyon last Sunday.

For once Stade Louis II was packed to the rafters, but the home side looked no more cohesive than they have all season and eventually succumbed to second-half goals from Pape Diakhaté and Lisandro López. The legacy of a muddled transfer policy, Monaco’s descent already seems certain to cost them the services of goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier and South Korea striker Park Chu-Young, and they are unlikely to be the only ones to jump ship.

Victory secured a Champions League place for OL, meaning Paris Saint-Germain had to content themselves with the Europa League. There was better news to come for PSG, however, after Colony Capital announced that they had agreed to sell a controlling 70 percent stake in the club to a group of Qatari investors widely believed to be the Qatar Investment Authority. Cue outlandish transfer rumours.

Rennes’ 3-2 defeat at champions Lille saw them lose out on fifth place to Sochaux, who won 3-1 at Arles-Avignon. Sochaux will therefore avoid the inconvenience of a July start in the Europa League, but they will do so without Francis Gillot, after the coach revealed he was in talks to join Bordeaux. Jean Fernandez, meanwhile, has stepped down as coach of Auxerre.

A Loïc Rémy double rescued a 2-2 draw for Marseille at Caen, but the outgoing champions face an uncertain summer. Gabriel Heinze and Lucho González are already heading for the exit, while Didier Deschamps has until June 15 to decide whether or not to trigger a contractual clause that allows him to buy himself out of his contract for €3 million.

Ligue 1 results
Sunday: Arles-Avignon 1-3 Sochaux, Bordeaux 2-0 Montpellier, Brest 0-2 Toulouse, Caen 2-2 Marseille, Lille 3-2 Rennes, Lorient 1-2 Auxerre, Monaco 0-2 Lyon, Nancy 4-0 Lens, Saint-Etienne 1-1 PSG, Valenciennes 2-1 Nice

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La semaine en France: Week 37

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.

Ligue 1
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

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La semaine en France: Week 36

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.

Ligue 1
Anyone who doubts the truth in the old adage that a week is a long time in football would do well to speak to the jubilant people of Lille. Seven days ago their team had gone 56 years without winning a trophy and were in danger of being overhauled in the league by Marseille. One week on, they are practically assured of their first Coupe de France and Ligue 1 double since 1946.

The Coupe de France already in the bag (see below), Lille saw Marseille concede the title race initiative by drawing 2-2 at Lorient on Sunday. The margins between success and failure, however, were paper-thin. Had Benoît Cheyrou’s injury-time header from all of two yards not been caught on the goal-line by Lorient goalkeeper Lionel Cappone, Lille’s lead would have been trimmed to a single point.

As it was, Lille hosted Sochaux on Wednesday with a three-point lead to build on and a 53rd-minute goal from Gervinho secured a 1-0 win that puts them six points clear with two games to play. Barring a miracle, the title is theirs and a point at Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday will make mathematically sure. “It’s not over yet but, to be honest, it looks good,” admitted Lille skipper Rio Mavuba.

Lyon remain in third place despite a 1-1 draw at Brest on Monday, after PSG failed to capitalise by going down 1-0 at Bordeaux two days later. Lyon lead PSG by two points, with Rennes two points further back after ending a nine-game winless run by prevailing 2-1 at Saint-Etienne (for whom Bakary Sako scored direct from a corner-kick).

Lens’ 1-1 draw at Monaco condemned the northern club to Ligue 2 but an injury-time equaliser from Lens’ reported Manchester United target Raphaël Varane dragged Monaco into the drop zone, after Nancy and Caen both recorded handsome – and timely – victories.

Ligue 1 results
Sunday: Arles-Avignon 1-0 Toulouse, Caen 2-0 Montpellier, Monaco 1-1 Lens, Nancy 3-0 Nice, Saint-Etienne 1-2 Rennes, Valenciennes 1-1 Auxerre, Lorient 2-2 Marseille; Monday: Brest 1-1 Lyon; Wednesday: Bordeaux 1-0 PSG, Lille 1-0 Sochaux

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La semaine en France: Weeks 34 and 35

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.

Ligue 1
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

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La semaine en France: Week 33

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.

Ligue 1
The quota controversy that has dominated the French media agenda this week means that Marseille’s 1-1 draw at home to Auxerre last Sunday did not yield the level of scrutiny you might expect from an unscheduled setback for the reigning league champions.

For once Marseille were decent value for the lead given to them by Mathieu Valbuena, but a 77th-minute equaliser by Auxerre’s South Korean substitute Jung Jo-Gook – his first goal for the club - enabled Lille to hold onto top spot after their breezy 5-0 demolition of Arles-Avignon the day before. If Lille win at third-bottom Nancy on Saturday night, defeat for Marseille at Lyon the following evening would leave OM four points behind Lille with only four games to play.

Lyon’s own title ambitions received a likely fatal blow in an abject 2-0 defeat at Toulouse. Michel Bastos and Aly Cissokho were both sent off, the latter for a petulant lunge on Daniel Braaten after he had inadvertently doubled Toulouse’s advantage by lobbing his own goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris. Cissokho’s 1/10 rating from L’Équipe was the lowest of the season to date.

Lyon’s slip allowed Paris Saint-Germain to draw level with them in third place, as Nenê ended his four-month Ligue 1 goal drought with a vicious 20-yard volley (see below) in a 3-1 defeat of Valenciennes. Rennes failed to win – again – in a 0-0 draw at Bordeaux, who saw Lorient creep above them into sixth place after a late, Kévin Gameiro-inspired rally saw the Brittany side register a 3-2 win at imperilled Lens.

Caen climbed to 16th place with a fine 4-0 win at Nice, with Nancy falling into the relegation zone following a 1-0 loss to Sochaux. It prompted Nancy coach Pablo Correa to announce that he will reverse his decision to leave the club if they go down.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Lens 2-3 Lorient, Lille 5-0 Arles-Avignon, Rennes 0-0 Bordeaux, Sochaux 1-0 Nancy, PSG 3-1 Valenciennes; Sunday: Marseille 1-1 Auxerre, Montpellier 0-0 Brest, Nice 0-4 Caen, Toulouse 2-0 Lyon, Saint-Etienne 1-1 Monaco

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La semaine en France: Week 32

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.

Ligue 1
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

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La semaine en France: Week 31

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.

Ligue 1
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

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La semaine en France: Week 30

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.

Ligue 1
As France baked in unseasonably warm spring temperatures, Lille and Marseille both fluffed their lines to allow Lyon a glimpse of the title and permit Paris Saint-Germain to re-ignite their Champions League ambitions.

Lille stumbled in unexpected fashion, going down 1-0 at improving Monaco after Adil Rami’s woeful back-pass allowed Park Chu-Young to break the deadlock in the 12th minute. The visitors’ cause was not helped eight minutes before half-time when Gervinho saw red for charging at Adriano following an untidy tackle from the Monaco defender and Lille’s attempts to break down their hosts’ well-drilled back four in the second half proved uncharacteristically toothless.

Second-placed Marseille would have closed to within a point of the leaders if they had beaten Toulouse but they had to settle for a point after André-Pierre Gignac’s 85th-minute equaliser earned a 2-2 draw at Stade Vélodrome. The former Toulouse player did not celebrate but he did fire a telling glare at the home fans in the Virage Nord.

Flagging Rennes, fourth, have now gone four games without a win after a 2-0 loss at Brest but there was good news on Tuesday when coach Frédéric Antonetti penned a two-year contract extension. Fifth-placed PSG closed to within four points of the Champions League places by winning 2-1 at Caen, while Lyon were the only other side in the top five to win, putting a tense week behind them to prevail 3-0 at home to Lens and climb to third.

Lens are now seven points from safety and appear destined for Ligue 2, but Monaco’s win over Lille took them out of the relegation zone at the expense of Auxerre, who have lost influential captain Benoît Pedretti for the rest of the season due to an adductor muscle injury. Arles-Avignon drew 0-0 at Bordeaux but will be relegated if they lose at home to Valenciennes on Sunday.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Auxerre 2-2 Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux 0-0 Arles-Avignon, Caen 1-2 PSG, Lorient 1-1 Sochaux, Monaco 1-0 Lille, Valenciennes 1-1 Nancy, Brest 2-0 Rennes; Sunday: Marseille 2-2 Toulouse, Montpellier 1-1 Nice, Lyon 3-0 Lens

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La semaine en France: Week 29

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.

Ligue 1
And then there were two. A week after Paris Saint-Germain gave up the ghost in the Ligue 1 title race, Lyon and Rennes both followed suit in Week 29.

Lyon led 2-0 going into injury time at Nice on Sunday, before capitulating completely in the space of just three minutes to leave their title ambitions in tatters. Pape Diakhaté was the villain of the piece. Having already conceded a penalty for a rash foul on Danijel Ljuboja, whose subsequent spot-kick was saved by Hugo Lloris, the on-loan Senegalese international stupidly scythed down Abdou Traoré and was promptly shown a second yellow card.

Eric Mouloungui punished Diakhaté’s indiscipline from the spot and moments later, Argentine centre-back Renato Civelli prodded in from close range – with his arm – to earn Nice an improbable draw and send Lyon into meltdown. Lloris lost his rag in the tunnel after the game and Jean-Michel Aulas was involved in a heated confrontation with Nice assistant coach Frédéric Gioria. Aly Cissokho, meanwhile, was drawn into an unsightly row with a supporter (sample quote: “And your mum!”) in training on Wednesday.

Lyon are now eight points behind Lille, who made it four wins on the spin with a 3-1 dismantling of Caen. Benoît Cheyrou’s fine second-half strike gave Marseille a 1-0 win at Lens on Sunday night to keep the champions within four points of Lille and launch what now seems certain to be a two-horse title race.

Rennes failed to muster a single shot on target in their 0-0 draw at home to Auxerre and lie seven points behind Lille in third place. PSG endured just as dismal an afternoon in a goalless draw at home to Lorient. It leaves them 12 points behind Lille in fifth and just four points above Montpellier, who won 1-0 at Toulouse.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Arles-Avignon 0-2 Monaco, Lille 3-1 Caen, Nancy 0-0 Bordeaux, PSG 0-0 Lorient, Rennes 0-0 Auxerre, Sochaux 2-1 Brest, Toulouse 0-1 Montpellier; Sunday: Nice 2-2 Lyon, Saint-Etienne 1-1 Valenciennes, Lens 0-1 Marseille

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La semaine en France: Week 28

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.

Ligue 1
And then there were four. After defeat at Auxerre and a draw at home to Montpellier, Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 loss at Marseille in last Sunday’s ‘clasico’ effectively ended their hopes of pipping Lille to this season’s title.

A lively encounter at Stade Vélodrome saw OM prevail through a header from the irrepressible André Ayew, after Gabriel Heinze’s 16th-minute free-kick had been cancelled out by Clément Chantôme. It left PSG 10 points behind Lille and five points below the Champions League places. PSG’s fatigue was plain to see during a second half in which they never quite managed to put Marseille under pressure and Antoine Kombouaré was quick to point out that it had been their 11th game in five weeks. Worryingly for the Coupe de France semi-finalists, the last five of those have all ended in defeat.

With 10 games to go, Lille are four points clear of second-placed Marseille after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Brest. Their new-found ability to grind out results, as opposed to blasting teams off the pitch like they did in December and January, only strengthens the conviction that the leaders are not about to collapse with the finishing line in sight.

An 87th-minute header from Kévin Théophile-Catherine earned Rennes a 1-1 draw at Lyon that left the visitors third and the hosts fourth. Lyon are now six points off the pace and Théophile-Catherine’s goal could have far-reaching ramifications for the 2002-2008 champions, with Monday’s L’Équipe openly speculating that this season will be Claude Puel’s last.

Lens stunned Montpellier 4-1 at Stade de la Mosson but remain second-bottom, four points from safety. Monaco, one place higher, are also in serious peril of sliding into Ligue 2 after a 1-0 defeat at home to Nancy left them three points beneath 17th-placed Auxerre.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Auxerre 2-0 Sochaux, Brest 1-2 Lille, Lorient 0-0 Saint-Etienne, Montpellier 1-4 Lens, Toulouse 1-1 Nice, Valenciennes 2-2 Bordeaux, Lyon 1-1 Rennes; Sunday: Caen 2-0 Arles-Avignon, Monaco 0-1 Nancy, Marseille 2-1 PSG

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La semaine en France: Week 27

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.

Ligue 1
Once may have been a fluke, but to score match-winning goals in injury time twice in the space of a week suggests Lille may have the stomach for a bare-knuckle title brawl after all.

Seven days after Pierre-Alain Frau gave them a last-gasp victory at Marseille, Lille found themselves being held 1-1 at home to local rivals Valenciennes as the clock ticked into stoppage time. Cue Eden Hazard. Having located a pocket of space inside the visitors’ box, the Belgian showed a sublime, Velcro touch to cushion Rio Mavuba’s stinging pass before rattling a shot into the bottom-left corner. He claimed that he had “just hit it hard,” but no matter. Lille’s three-point lead remains intact and they now face a kinder run of fixtures than their rivals.

Rennes stayed second but saw their five-game winning run come to an end in a 2-0 defeat at home to Marseille. Lyon, adopting an unfamiliar 4-4-2 formation, prevailed by the same scoreline at Sochaux to leave the two Olympiques on 48 points, one shy of Rennes and four adrift of Lille.

With 31 minutes of the weekend’s action remaining, fifth-place Paris Saint-Germain were just a point behind Marseille and Lyon, only for Olivier Giroud’s slick strike – his second of the game – to earn Montpellier a 2-2 draw after they had fallen 2-0 down inside 13 minutes. For Paris, a club permanently on the brink of eruption, defeat in Sunday’s clasico at Marseille could spell the end of their Champions League ambitions.

At the bottom, Monaco displayed remarkable efficiency to claim a 1-0 win at Bordeaux despite mustering just two attempts on goal. They are now out of the relegation zone on goal difference above Auxerre, for whom the autumn’s Champions League sojourns to Milan and Real Madrid must now seem a very long way away.

Ligue 1 results
Friday: Rennes 0-2 Marseille; Saturday: Arles-Avignon 3-3 Lorient, Lens 0-1 Toulouse, Nancy 2-0 Caen, Nice 1-0 Auxerre, Saint-Etienne 2-0 Brest, Sochaux 0-2 Lyon; Sunday: Bordeaux 0-1 Monaco, Lille 2-1 Valenciennes, PSG 2-2 Montpellier

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La semaine en France: Week 26

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.

Ligue 1
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

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La semaine en France: Week 25

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.

Ligue 1
The compressing and expanding accordion that is the Ligue 1 title race was squeezed together once again in Week 25, with just four points now separating the top five after Lille’s 1-1 draw at home to Lyon.

Rennes’ fine form continued with a comfortable 2-0 win at home to Lens, in which Razak Boukari netted a cracking goal against his former club. It was Rennes’ fourth straight league win and means that Frédéric Antonetti’s men trail the leaders by goal difference alone. Marseille are a point behind, in third place, after an André Ayew double saw them to a 2-1 win at Nancy.

Paris Saint-Germain trail OM by a point following a 2-1 victory at home to Toulouse that came despite a performance from centre-back Sylvain Armand befitting of its own one-man highlights reel. His spectacularly mistimed challenge on Moussa Sissoko gifted the visitors a 17th-minute penalty that Paulo Machado missed before Armand volleyed PSG into the lead. Adrián Gunino’s own goal made it 2-0 but Armand kept things interesting by ducking beneath a high ball and allowing Franck Tabanou to pull one back for TFC.

Lille’s draw with Lyon was marred once again by the hosts’ wretched playing surface but the pitch was finally re-laid on Thursday and will be completely revamped in the summer. Jean Tigana offered to quit as Bordeaux coach but then saw his side beat Auxerre 3-0 and was subsequently persuaded to stay by president Jean-Louis Triaud and majority shareholder Nicolas de Tavernost.

Auxerre have now gone 16 games without a win and are only a point above the drop zone. Monaco looked set to leapfrog them but threw away a 2-0 goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Caen. Meanwhile, Nice’s 2-0 win at Saint-Etienne, featuring an extraordinary goal from Kafoumba Coulibaly (see below), lifted them four points away from the relegation places.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Arles-Avignon 1-1 Brest, Monaco 2-2 Caen, Rennes 2-0 Lens, Saint-Etienne 0-2 Nice, Sochaux 0-0 Montpellier, Valenciennes 0-0 Lorient, Bordeaux 3-0 Auxerre; Saturday: Nancy 1-2 Marseille, PSG 2-1 Toulouse, Lille 1-1 Lyon

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La semaine en France: Week 24

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.

Ligue 1
Having managed to avoid defeat since a 3-1 loss at home to Marseille in Week 10, Lille’s resistance finally buckled when they fell to a 1-0 loss in a scrappy and otherwise unremarkable game at Montpellier last Sunday.

Moroccan starlet Younes Belhanda scored the game’s only goal in the 84th minute, charging at the retreating Lille defence from the right flank, circumventing Adil Rami’s impromptu war dance on the edge of the box and drilling a deflected shot into the bottom-left corner. To make matters worse for Lille, all their title rivals won.

Rennes are now just two points off the pace in second place following a 2-1 win at Toulouse, while Marseille, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain are all within four points of the leaders. Marseille moved up to third place by beating Saint-Etienne 2-1 in a fractious affair at the Vélodrome, but the night ended on a sour note for the champions after André-Pierre Gignac had to go off with a groin injury that ruled him out of the Champions League match with Manchester United.

Lyon and PSG remain level on points in fourth and fifth place respectively after both enjoyed one-sided victories. Lyon ran out 4-0 victors at home to Nancy on Friday night, while PSG outclassed Nice 3-0 on Sunday.

The week’s most eye-catching result was Bordeaux’s 5-1 capitulation at Lorient (after a tidy hat-trick from Kévin Gameiro), which prompted Bordeaux coach Jean Tigana to admit that the 2009 champions are now officially in crisis. There were red cards for Lorient full-back Franco Sosa and Bordeaux goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso - who was sent off for twice handling the ball outside his area – while Sochaux’s 3-2 win at Lens also finished with 10 men on each side after Toifilou Maoulida and Kévin Anin both saw red following a first-half tête-à-tête.

Ligue 1 results
Friday: Lyon 4-0 Nancy; Saturday: Auxerre 1-1 Arles-Avignon, Brest 2-0 Monaco, Caen 2-2 Valenciennes, Lens 2-3 Sochaux, Marseille 2-1 Saint-Etienne, Lorient 5-1 Bordeaux; Sunday: Montpellier 1-0 Lille, Nice 0-3 PSG, Toulouse 1-2 Rennes

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La semaine en France: Week 23

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.

Ligue 1
One by one, the pack closed in and Lille could do nothing but watch. The fixture computer having scheduled their home game with Toulouse for Sunday night, the league leaders had no choice but to watch as first Marseille, then Lyon and then Rennes whittled away their lead. By the time Lille took to the field at Stadium Lille-Métropole, they were just two points clear.

The pressure was on, then, but Rudi Garcia’s side produced a quietly efficient performance to win 2-0. A badly deteriorating playing surface did not make life easy, but the visitors obligingly evened things up by giving the ball away in dangerous areas with a frequency that – in the first half at least – bordered on the suicidal. Gervinho scrambled home to put Lille 1-0 up in the 38th minute and teed up substitute Túlio de Melo for the second goal in injury time.

It meant that Lille ended the weekend with their five-point lead intact. Rennes are now second after an equally straightforward 2-0 defeat of Nice. Marseille moved up to third, a point behind Rennes, after André-Pierre Gignac’s impressive double saw them come from behind to win 2-1 at Sochaux. Lyon also had to overcome the concession of an early goal, weathering a first-half storm at Saint-Etienne to record a 4-1 victory that left Jean-Michel Aulas beaming.

Paris Saint-Germain were the only title pretenders who failed to win, a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Lens dropping them to fourth, level on points with OL. Bordeaux’s mini-revival came to an end, as Romain Hamouma’s last-minute header saw them fall 2-1 at home to Caen. There were also wins for Caen’s fellow strugglers Nancy and Monaco, who won 3-1 against Auxerre to leave the erstwhile Champions League participants in 17th place and without a win in 14 games across all competitions.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Arles-Avignon 0-0 Montpellier, Bordeaux 1-2 Caen, Monaco 3-1 Lorient, Nancy 3-1 Auxerre, PSG 0-0 Lens, Sochaux 1-2 Marseille, Saint-Etienne 1-4 Lyon; Sunday: Rennes 2-0 Nice, Valenciennes 3-0 Brest, Lille 2-0 Toulouse

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