Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

The result of the weekend goes to 20th-place Valenciennes, who went nil-nil with Ligue 1 leader Lyon in a torrential downpower in the south of France. Although I guess the true winner of the weekend was the rain itself, which managed to completely foil all attempts to play the Nice-Grenoble match. Ah, Mother Nature, you capricious harpy.

Saturday, November 29th:

Auxerre 0-1 Monaco - Monaco played a technically efficient match, getting off only 4 shots on goal and committing only 9 fouls, but coming away with the 3 points. Pokrivac scored the only goal in the 24th minute, slamming home his shot off the post. In the 36th minute, Monaco GK Roma was injured and was substituted by Thuram (Yohan, not Lillian). Auxerre almost made the back-up pay in the 55th minute when he was beaten by Langil, but Simic was able to clear the shot off the line and the rest of the match saw few chances for either side. In a new Ligue 1 trend, Auxerre were jeered off the pitch by their supporters. Freddy Adu watch: On the bench, 0 minutes.

Le Havre 0-2 Nantes - Winless in their last 6, Nantes finally broke through in a match that featured 44 fouls (22 for either club). Le Havre were on their heels almost immediately, with GK Revault having to backpedal to keep out a well-lobbed shot. The only other significant action of the first half saw Havre GK Alonzo make a nice save on Lesage. Nantes pressured the entire second half, with Capoue hitting the bar early. They broke through in the 68th when Djordjevic hit a brilliant volley on a Moullec free-kick. De Freitas ensured the 3 points in the 85th minute.

Le Mans 2-0 Caen - Le Mans outshot Caen 18-9 (with 7-1 shots on goal), and earned the full 3 points in this match. Caen almost struck first, with Lemaitre forcing a save from Le Mans GK Pele. After that point, it was Gervinho on a 1-man mission to punish Caen, hitting the crossbar in the 20th minute and forcing a save from GK Thebaux in the 27th minute. The scoring wasn't opened until the second half, when Le Tallec played a well-weighted ball through for Maiga in the 53rd minute for a relatively easy finish. In the 62nd minute Gervinho was rewarded for all of his work when he slotted home the pass from Dossevi.

Lille 1-1 Lorient - Lille dominated the match statistically but was only able to salvage 1 point. They almost opened the scoring in the 4th minute when Fauvergue hit the post, and got their goal just 4 minutes later when Obraniak played Bastos through for the easy goal. Lorient's goal came in the 36th minute from Rami, who actually plays for Lille. Morel sent through a cross that Rami apparently found impossible to deal with, as he turned it into his own goal. With that, Rami becomes the first OG-scorer to win the "Goal-scorer to get carded award" in a moment for which I am sure he is very proud. Lorient almost got a goal on their own merits when Gameiro came in on Lille GK Malicki in a 1-on-1 situation, but he inexplicably passed the ball to Abriel, who immediately lost possession. Amalfitano had the last chance to win it for Lorient, but he hit the post.

Sochaux 0-0 Bordeaux - Sochaux-Montbeliard managed their first clean sheet of the season, and their 8th draw, despite only holding 39% of the possession. But it was that kind of day for Bordeaux, who saw Gourcuff injured in warm-ups. The match almost opened on a continued sour note for the club, as Erding (who was offside) forced an excellent save from Bordeaux GK Valverde. Things continued to get worse, as in the 36th minute Cavenaghi and Bellion let an excellent opportunity pass, as each thought the other would take the shot. In the 54th minute Valverde was called into action again to save a fine free-kick from Dalmat, who also hit a scorching 35-yard shot a few minutes later that Valverde saved. Bordeaux finally woke up offensively, as Wendell and Cavenaghi forced Sochaux GK Richert into two excellent save in the waning minutes.

Lyon 0-0 Valenciennes - It was 1st-place Lyon against 20th-place Valenciennes, and the torrential downpour turned the pitch into a mudslide which favored the underdogs. Despite facing 31 shots (8 on goal) and having to defend against 11 corner kicks, the basement-dwellers held on for the nil-nil draw and 1 point. Lyon began the match with Juninho suspended and Benzema injured, but it was truly the elements that kept their offense stagnant. Valenciennes had the best shot of the first half, with Audel focing Lloris into a good save. Lyon then saw poor shots from several of their players, with Ederson and Makoun shooting wide, Govou allowing Valenciennes GK Penneteau to make an easy save, and Fred shooting over the crossbar. The second half of the match was an absolute sham, as passes stopped in the middle of puddles and it was impossible to tell if either club had started in white kits. Fred had one last chance to claim the 3 points, but Penneteau was equal to the task.

Sunday, November 30th:

Nancy 1-2 Saint-Etienne - Saint-Etienne put 8 shots on goal and held 69% of the possession, deservedly coming away with the 3 points. The club scored early, when Machado hammered a free-kick into the top-left corner in the 8th minute. They continued the pressure, with Matuidi forcing a save from Nancy GK Bracigliano in the 12th minute and Benalouane shooting just wide 1 minute later. Nancy had their first chance in the 31st minute when Hadji shoot just wide of the post. The rest of the match became a display of one-upmanship between Hadji and Gigliotti, with the latter scoring on the break in the 43rd minute. In the 55th minute, Bracigliano received a red card for taking Gigliotti down in the box, but Gomis missed the resulting PK. In the 75th minute Dia received a well-headed pass from Hadji and slotted the ball home to pull one goal back for Nancy. Just 3 minutes later, Hadji almost equalized himself, shooting just wide of the post. Nancy had two more good chances in the final 5 minutes, but both times Macaluso had his shots blocked by the Saint-Etienne defense.

Toulouse 0-0 Marseille - Despite outshooting Toulouse 16-6 and holding 63% of the possession, Marseille were only able to take 1 point from the match, meaning they have taken only 2 points of a possible 9 in their last 3 matches when all 9 points would have had them in 1st place. L'OM started quickly, with Bonnart forcing a save from Toulouse GK Carrasso in the 15th minute. Just one minute later it was Marseille GK Mandanda making the save on a header from Capoue. There was a lull in the action until the 41st minute, when a corner from Ziani was headed by Zubar to Niang, forcing an outstanding close-range save from Carrasso. In the second half Mathieu provided pressure for Toulouse, shooting just over the crossbar and then passing to Gignac, forcing a save from Mandanda. Marseille could have snatched the 3 points in injury time, but Niang hit the side netting.

Rennes 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain - Rennes continued their strong form of the past few weeks, taking all 3 points from an inconsistent PSG. Sessegnon almost opened the scoring for the club from the capital in the 4th minute, but he put his shot over the crossbar. In the 26th minute, Pagis responded with a 20-yard strike that forced a brilliant diving save from PSG GK Landreau, who tipped the shot onto the bar. The goal came in first-half injury time when Cheyrou hit a 25-yard shot that somehow beat the PSG defense and Landreau to roll into the bottom corner. PSG almost equalized through Rothen in the 55th minute, but Rennes GK Douchez made the save. Douchez was called upon again in the 67th minute, when he made an excellent point-blank save on Kezman. The last chance of the match for either club came in the 75th minute when Danze hit the post for Rennes.

So, after matchday 16 the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, with 34 points on a 10-4-2 record and a +11 goal differential; (2) Rennes, with 29 points on a 7-8-1 record and a +10 goal differential; (3) Marseille, with 28 points on a 7-7-2 record and a +11 goal differential; and (4) Nice, with 28 points on a 8-4-3 record and a +6 goal differential.

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