Posts Tagged ‘Eden Hazard’

Report: Chelsea roar back to defy United in FA Cup

“MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Holders Chelsea stormed back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday and take their FA Cup quarter-final to a replay.”

My AFP match report on Chelsea’s cup fightback at Manchester United can be read here.

Report: Chelsea avenge United loss in League Cup goalfest

“LONDON — Chelsea claimed partial revenge for their stormy loss to Manchester United at the weekend by prevailing 5-4 when the teams resumed hostilities in an end-to-end fourth-round League Cup tie on Wednesday.”

My round-up of Wednesday’s Capital One Cup fourth-round matches, including an extraordinary encounter at Stamford Bridge, can be read here.

Pitchside Europe: European Team of the Season

“Zlatan Ibrahimović enjoyed his most prolific season to date with Milan, Bayern Munich’s Mario Gómez plundered goals with remarkable consistency, and Falcao shot Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory, but Huntelaar outscored them all. The Dutchman’s sparkling partnership with Raúl fired Schalke to Champions League qualification and with 29 goals, he trailed only Messi, Ronaldo and Robin van Persie in the running for the European Golden Shoe.”

Pitchside Europe signed off for the 2011-2012 campaign by selecting a team of the season from players plying their trade outside the English Premier League. You can see the team (and then vent your spleen about my preposterous selections) here.

Report: Montpellier win maiden title on chaotic final day

“PARIS — Montpellier claimed the first French league title in their history after winning 2-1 at Auxerre on an extraordinary final day of the season on Sunday, after a game twice delayed due to protests by the home fans.”

My AFP report on the final day of the Ligue 1 season, which saw Dijon and Caen relegated, while Bordeaux claimed the final Europa League berth, can be read here.

Report: Montpellier win at Rennes to close on maiden title

“PARIS — Montpellier took a significant step towards their first ever Ligue 1 title by winning 2-0 at Rennes on Monday to restore their three-point lead over Paris Saint-Germain with two games to play.”

My AFP round-up of Monday night’s Ligue 1 matches, which saw Montpellier close to within four points of the title and Auxerre sink to the foot of the table, can be read here.

Report: Lille sitting pretty after Hazard sinks Toulouse

“PARIS — Champions Lille closed to within four points of top spot in Ligue 1 by winning 2-1 at home to Toulouse on Sunday and saw their grip on third place further strengthened by Lyon’s 1-1 draw at Rennes.”

My AFP report on the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, including an important win for Lille and another setback for Paris Saint-Germain, can be read here.

Top ten Ligue 1 transfer targets

Ligue 1 has proved a fertile hunting ground for Premier League sides in recent years – not least for Newcastle United – and as the January transfer window opens, several names from the French top flight find themselves linked with clubs from the English elite. Football Further runs the rule over the players making the headlines and identifies which of them are likely to be on the move.

1. Eden Hazard (Lille)
Unless unforeseen misfortune befalls him, Hazard will leave Lille this year and, when he does so, he will join one of Europe’s most famous clubs, but he is unlikely to depart this month. Rudi Garcia’s side may have gone into the winter break four points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, but their performance in the 0-0 draw at Parc des Princes on December 18 proved that they are PSG’s equal and they remain the most cohesive outfit in the division. With their title defence on track and no European distractions to contend with in the second half of the campaign, Lille will not yield Hazard in January unless they receive an astronomical bid. The player himself is in no hurry.

2. Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon)
Mention of Gourcuff’s name in the United Kingdom tends to conjure up memories of the match-winning performances and magisterial goals that characterised his performances in Bordeaux’s 2008-09 title-winning campaign, but Ligue 1 observers will attest that that player has not been seen for the best part of two years. An exhausted bystander as Bordeaux’s title defence crumbled in the second half of the 2009-10 season, Gourcuff endured a wretched World Cup and has failed to settle since joining Lyon in a €22 million deal in August 2010. Lyon are looking to recoup as much of his original transfer fee as possible but, despite rumours of a €12 million offer from Zenit Saint-Petersburg, a loan switch looks more probable. Arsène Wenger is a known admirer but, as he admitted recently, even with Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby injured, Arsenal are well stocked in the centre of the pitch.

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French football quotes of the year 2011

L’Entente Cordiale

“They say it’s because I’m a sexy boy. The English are crazy!”
- Yohan Cabaye, on the ‘Dreamboat’ nickname bestowed upon him by Newcastle’s fans

“Behind the ‘big guns’ like Chelsea or Manchester [United], there’s also Sunderland or Wolverhampton. French players who are used to getting on the ball end up watching it fly over their heads for 90 minutes.”
- Marseille sporting director José Anigo has some words of advice for any budding Ligue 1 talents dreaming of plying their trade in the Premier League

“If you want us to just stick it in the box like I’ve seen Stoke City do, you’ll have to change the coach. I forbid it.”
- Rennes coach Frédéric Antonetti shares his thoughts on the football doctrine advocated by Tony Pulis

“Without wanting to be unkind, it’s difficult when there are only four of you defending. Sometimes you feel like you’re on your own. When you watch Barça, everyone defends – even Messi!”
- Laurent Koscielny feels a bit exposed in the Arsenal back four

“Sometimes I tell jokes and Joe Cole and I look at each other and we’re the only ones laughing.”
- Vincent Enyeama on the language barrier in the Lille changing room

“Bon match pour… my team – mon équipe – et… I’m very happy!”
- Ambushed by Canal+’s touchline reporter Laurent Paganelli, Joe Cole has a stab at his first interview in the language of his new homeland after Lille’s 3-1 win over Lyon

Banter

“Once again I’m attacked by Jean-Michel Larqué. I hope with all my heart I don’t end up like him after my career, but there’s no chance of that because I’m not an idiot.”
- Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Jérémie Janot has a pop at 63-year-old television pundit Jean-Michel Larqué, who had criticised him for letting in two late goals at Lens

“Your mum.”
- Aly Cissokho’s considered response to a supporter who told him to “go and join Arles-Avignon” during a Lyon training session in April

“Although the score was already 3-0, he’d been taking the piss out of us with the ball for a few minutes, dribbling past his opponent and then waiting so he could dribble past him again. It’s a lack of respect. Even his Lille team-mates said he was going too far.”
- Nancy captain André Luiz takes a dim view of Eden Hazard’s showboating

“Marseille come up to Paris to fuck PSG!”
- Microphone in hand, match-winner Taye Taiwo gets a bit carried away during the Coupe de la Ligue post-match celebrations by leading the OM fans in a chorus of one of their favourite chants

“It was a good response to people who don’t know football. It’ll make them shut their big mouths.”
- Modibo Maiga relishes his brace in a 3-0 defeat of Toulouse after stumbling into the viewfinder of the Sochaux boo boys

“At that moment, I told myself that they’d gone mad and didn’t realise. Today I know that I was wrong: they knew exactly what they were doing. They even closed the curtains on the bus to hide themselves from the cameras… With hindsight, I see them above all as a bunch of thoughtless brats.”
- Raymond Domenech is still struggling to let go of the 2010 World Cup

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The Guardian Football Weekly Extra: December 1, 2011

I made my debut on The Guardian‘s Football Weekly Extra podcast on Thursday, to talk about Paris Saint-Germain’s capitulation at Marseille, rumours that Claude Makélelé is being lined up to replace Antoine Kombouaré as PSG coach, David Beckham’s proposed move to the French capital and Joe Cole’s start to life at Lille, as well as the likelihood of Eden Hazard leaving Lille in January. You can listen to the podcast (my bit is towards the end) here.

The 2010-2011 Season: Five tactical observations

Despite being prefaced by a World Cup that was characterised by stodgy, unadventurous football and which produced the lowest goals-per-game ratio (2.27) since the notoriously defensive 1990 tournament (2.21), the 2010-11 European football season was generally a positive one for teams that sought to keep the ball on the deck and play an expansive game. Football Further examines some of the tactical trends that have emerged in the continent’s major leagues over the last 10 months.

1. Keepers with good feet
The recent retirement of Manchester United’s Edwin van der Sar has drawn attention to the value of goalkeepers who can set attacking moves in motion by distributing the ball in an intelligent and enterprising fashion. In a masterful piece for the Financial Times last week, David Winner explained how van der Sar’s coach at Ajax, Louis van Gaal, made a priority of developing his ability with the ball: “Van Gaal… had something more sophisticated in mind: to turn van der Sar into the first ‘sweeper-keeper’, the pivot of his new, high-speed ‘circulation football’ (which became, among other things, the precursor to the current Barcelona style).”

With teams better organised defensively than ever before and attacking players more and more adept at pressing opposition defenders, a goalkeeper who passes the ball well can be a priceless commodity. Victor Valdés provided a superb recent example in the second leg of Barcelona’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid. With the score 0-0 early in the second half, Valdés used a goal-kick to play a one-two with Gerard Piqué – positioned near the right-hand corner flag – that lured Real’s attacking players up the pitch. Upon receiving the return ball from Piqué, Valdés curled a risky but perfectly executed first-time pass to Dani Alves on the right flank, taking five opposition players out of the game and setting up a counter-attack. Seconds later the ball was in the net, and Barca were on the brink of the final.

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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: 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 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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Goal of the Week: Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard (Marseille 1-2 Lille):

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Honourable mention(s): Emmanuel Adebayor (Racing Santander 1-3 Real Madrid)

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