Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

Matchday 7 saw increased scoring and fewer cards than past weeks, indicating that the French clubs are starting to get into their individual rhythms. The result of the week goes to Grenoble, who topped Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in a pressure-filled match. Some familiar names popped up as goal-scorers, and the top of the table also looks similar to those of the past few weeks.

Saturday, September 27th:

Auxerre 3-0 Le Havre - Auxerre took a little time in the first half to establish its superiority, but a yellow card to Le Havre's Noro in the 20th minute seemed to spark this match. Just minutes later, Coulibaly (27th minute) struck for Auxerre and the rout was on. Although Le Havre GK Revault made 4 outstanding saves, Auxerre took 18 shots, with 7 of them on target. Jelen struck in the 49th minute, and Kahlenberg put Le Havre out of their misery in the 85th minute.

Caen 3-0 Nantes - After losing mid-week in the Coupe de La Ligue to amateur side Creteil (think Barnsley, or Havant and Waterlooville) 7 of Nantes' starting players were benched for this match. Clearly, this tactic successfully motivated the new starters. Oops. Caen had 60% of the possession and put 10 shots on goal, and Nantes made them pay by committing 28 fouls. The carnage started early as Savidan struck in the 2nd minute. They received their second goal from Ben Khalfallah shortly afterwards (10th minute), followed by the third in the 31st minute from Nivet. Then things got chippy, as cards were given to Lemaitre (Caen; 36th minute), Faty (Nantes; 42nd minute), and Pierre (Nantes; 44th minute). The second half saw more pressure from Caen, but no more goals. The end of the match was marked by yellow cards given to Florentin (Caen) and Da Rocha (Nantes) in the 83rd minute.

Le Mans 1-1 Marseille - Despite holding 67% of the possession and taking 26 shots (with 7 on target), L'OM was only able to take 1 point of Le Mans. The scoring was opened early by Ben Arfa (7th minute), who was matched minutes later after a poor pass was picked off by Le Tallec and fed to Helstad (10th minute). Cheyrou almost scored 1 minute later to put Marseille ahead, but Le Mans GK Pele made an excellent save.

Lyon 2-1 Nancy - Lyon dominated this match, with 58% of the possession and 18 shots (5 on goal). The first half was full of excitement, as Lyon launched several waves of attack at the Nancy goal. Following a yellow card to Toulalan in the 18th minute (are you listening, Raymond?), Lyon pulled ahead in the 31st minute on some brilliant work by Benzema. Just minutes later, Fred scored (36th minute) to give Lyon a 2-0 lead. This was short-lived as Nancy made their only successful move toward goal and Berenguer slotted home a shot in the 37th minute. The remainder of the first half, as well as the majority of the second half was spent by Lyon huddling defensively and launching lazy counter-attacks. Lyon also received a scare in the 59th minute when Benzema limped off the pitch, but he appears to be okay.

Rennes 1-0 Nice - Within the first few minutes of this match, both Letizi (Nice) and Douchez (Rennes) were called upon to make excellent saves. Rennes continued the pressure, and Letizi was again called into action at the 25th and 30th minute, resulting in 2 more brilliant saves. Unfortunately, the Nice keeper was left for dead in the 51st minute when Briand headed home a perfect cross, giving Rennes the 3 points. Rennes ended a streak of 3 league matches without a win, while Nice come out of this match having not won 3 in a row.

Sochaux 1-1 Lorient - In a 1-1 draw that was unsurprisingly dull, Sochaux managed to obtain only their 3rd point of the season. The clubs were relatively even in number of shots (and shots on goal), and the match was not even livened up by bookings, as there were no cards issued to either side. Lorient got their goal in the first half from Ayew in the 38th minute, while Sochaux secured the point when Erdinc pushed the ball between GK Audard's legs in the 79th minute.

Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Grenoble - Although PSG outshot Grenoble 13-9, with 5-1 shots on goal, Grenoble GK Wimbee was simply brilliant in this match. He had a lot of work to do, as PSG held the run of play through outstanding pressure from Hoarau and Giuly. But it was Grenoble who got the 3 points when Arkour put them ahead with a lightning strike in the 76th minute. Grenoble also saw yellow cards issued to Regragui (82nd minute), and the excellently-named Dja Djedje (45th minute).

Sunday, September 28th:

Monaco 0-2 Lille - In an extremely dull game that saw 49 total fouls, it was 51 minutes before Monaco even out a shot on goal. To make things somewhat interesting, it remains unclear who Lille's first goal is credited to. The French league website lists it as an own goal by Monaco captina Modesto in the 69th minute, but ESPN lists Cabaye as the scorer. The second goal was assisted by Cabaye, who sent a clean ball through to Obraniak, who chipped the onrushing GK Ruffier. So who cares who scored the first goal? Well, Cabaye received a yellow card in the 61st minute, and it is listed as an OG, this will be our first week without a goal-scorer receiving a yellow card. Freddy Adu came on in the 79th minute, and was ineffective.

Valenciennes 0-1 Toulouse - In a match featuring two clubs who were knocked out of the Coupe de La Ligue midweek on PKs, Valenciennes failed to account for the most obvious threat on the pitch. Gignac, who had a brace against Sochaux last week, provided the winning goal for Toulouse in the 92nd minute after the first 91 minutes had featured end-to-end action from both clubs. Toulouse was kept in the match early by 2 phenomenal saves from Carrasso on Danic and Belmadi, and they almost took the lead a little later on 2 vicious strikes from Gignac. In the end, it was his 3rd good opportunity which made the difference as he struck the ball well enough to come off the sliding Valenciennes GK Penneteau's foot and into the back of the net.

Bordeaux 1-1 Saint-Etienne - In a game that saw Bordeaux striker Cavenaghi stay extremely busy, the draw dropped his team to 7th place. Saint-Etienne took the lead in the 27th minute when Payet struck a low shot into the corner. The action swung back and forth for the next several minutes until Bordeaux was given a gift by Loic Perrin in the 45th minute. The Saint-Etienne man gathered the ball in the area, lost his footing, and then batted the ball away from the oncoming Bordeaux players with his hands. Cavenaghi stepped up and promptly lashed the spot kick against the crossbar. He atoned early in the second half on a beautiful free kick from Gourcuff, who placed the ball neatly on Cavenaghi's head. The latter almost had a brace (and the lead for Bordeaux) in the 67th minute, but his effort was headed off the line by Saint-Etienne defender Tavlaridis. Neither side could break through after that, and the match ended in the 1-1 tie.

So, at the end of Matchday 7, the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, on 19 point from a 6-1-0 record and a +9 goal differential; (2) Toulouse, on 14 points from a 4-2-1 record and a +14 goal differential; (3) Marseille, on 13 points from a 3-4-0 record and a +6 goal differential; and (4) Grenoble, on 13 points from a 4-1-2 record and a +1 goal differential.

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