Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

Although the most anticipated match-up of the weekend was the Lyon v. Marseille tilt, it is Bordeaux who get the best result, picking up an important 3 points to move into 3rd place in Ligue 1. Overall, the weekend featured quite a bit of scoring (and an unusually high number of 3-1 results) but ended with a nil-nil draw in the battle for 1st place.

Saturday, December 13th:

Auxerre 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain - In a very even match, it was the early pace and pressure of Sessegnon that made the difference. In the 5th minute a free-kick from Rothen was flicked to the post by Armand for a waiting (and unmarked) Sessegnon to open the scoring. In the 13th minute Lejeune missed a chance to equalize, and in the 22nd minute Sessegnon put PSG up 2-0 after beating 2 defenders. Auxerre had the better pressure in the second-half, with Quercia forcing a save from PSG GK Landreau in the 60th minute and Niculae hitting the crossbar just 1 minute later. That pressure paid off in the 86th minute when Traore took down Oliech in the 6-yard box, with Hengbart slotting home the resulting PK, but Auxerre were unable to score the equalizer.

Le Mans 1-3 Bordeaux - Despite getting more shots on target, Le Mans found themselves on the wrong end of a strong score. The majority of the action was in the second-half, which started early when Gervinho had his shot blocked in the 48th minute. Bordeaux opened the scoring in the 59th minute when Cavenaghi's shot took a slight deflection off a defender and went into the goal. Helstad responded in the 67th minute with a brilliant run, beating 2 defenders and a difficult angle on the shot for the equalizer. Chalme then put Bordeaux back ahead in the 76th minute with a cheeky long-range lob over Le Mans GK Pele. Jussie finished off the scoring in the 94th minute (that's just rubbing it in) when he latched onto a long clearance from Chamakh and fired it home.

Nancy 2-0 Grenoble - Nancy dominated the match, taking more shots and winning 5 corners (to 0 for Grenoble), and the pressure showed in the score. They started early, as Hadji headed his shot barely over the crossbar in the 3rd minute. Akrour responded in the 8th minute, forcing a save from Nancy GK Bracigliano, but after that it was the Berenguer show. The first goal came in the 17th minute when Feret finished off a nice cross from Zerka into the bottom-right corner. Just minutes later Berenguer put a rocket of a free-kick just wide of the post. In the 28th minute, Djedje looked for the equalizer, but Bracigliano was there for another save. 1 minute later Berenguer sent a header just wide, and right before the half he sent another screaming shot barely wide again. In the 56th minute Grenoble just missed equalizing again, as Robin hit the bar, and Dia put the game away in the 66th minute after another well-delivered pass from Zerka.

Sochaux 2-2 Caen - In a thoroughly entertaining match, Sochaux domainted statistically (9 shots on goal; 63%-27% possession) but didn't rescure the 1 point until very late in the match. In the 14th minute Savidan headed the ball just wide of the Sochaux goal, but not much later the scoring was opened when an Adnane corner-kick was spilled by Sochaux GK Richert to the feet of Nivet, who fed Gomis for the easy finish. It wasn't until the 35th minute that Sochaux threatened, with Perquis forcing a save from Caen GK Plante. The 2nd goal of the match came in the 69th minute when Nivet fed Gomis for another easy finish, securing the "Goal-scorer to get carded" award for this week with a brace. Sochaux gaffer Francis Gillot brought on Privat in the 73rd minute, and the decision paid dividends almost immediately as Privat pounced on poorly-punched clearance from Caen GK Plante for the finish. The draw was complete in the 89th minute when Privat latched onto an Isbay free-kick with an amazing finish (around the 2-minute mark in the clip).

Toulouse 3-1 Saint-Etienne - Toulouse came out early, with Gignac catching Saint-Etienne GK Janot completely flat-footed in the 5th minute. After some minor pressure from both sides, Saint-Etienne equalized in the 37th minute when Machado's free-kick hit the post and then hit the back of the net. Didot put Toulouse back on top in first-half stoppage time as a poor clearance from Janot was sent back in immediately and caught the GK by surprise. Gignac finished his brace in the 55th minute, beating Janot (who had a nightmare performance) at the near post. Gignac also had 2 chances at completing his hat-trick, but was unable to capitalize.

Valenciennes 3-1 Monaco - Relegation-bound Valenciennes bossed Monaco all over the pitch, forcing the principality club into 24 fouls and only 1 shot on goal. Monaco GK Ruffier was busy all day, and early as he made quick saves on Audel and Pujol in the opening stages. Things looked better for Monaco when Pino put in his first Ligue 1 goal in the 23rd minute, but Valenciennes equalized just 6 minutes later through a wonderful free-kick from Sanchez-Moreno. The rest of the match was one-sided, as Audel's volley hit the post in the 36th minute and Belmadi's volley in the 41st minute resulted in the lead for his club. Pino did manage to hit the crossbar for Monaco, but the end came in the 59th minute when a Danic cross was headed in by Pujol. Danic almost got his second assist towards the end of the match, but Audel's header was well-saved by the well-tested Ruffier. Freddy Adu watch: On the bench, but 0 minutes of playing time. Really, Jean Petit? Your club is down 3-1 after 60 minutes, and you can't give Freddy some run out for the final half-hour in an attempt to spark something?

Rennes 0-0 Nantes - Despite holding Nantes to 0 shots on goal and holding 63% of the possession, Rennes found itself only able to take 1 point from this match. Rennes missed a chance to move within 1 point of Ligue 1 leaders Lyon, but apparently Nantes were motivated to get the 1 point to move them out of the relegation zone. The basement club almost opened the scoring early, but Bagayoko's header went wide in the 1st minute and a free-kick from N'Daw in the 4th minute hit the post. Rennes' best chance came in the 35th minute when Nantes GK Heurtebis spilled a Cheyrou free-kick, but Ekoko put the follow-up well over the crossbar. Ultimately, neither side could produce enough pressure to make the breakthrough and they had to share the points.

Sunday, December 14th:

Le Havre 1-3 Lorient - Despite giving up 13 corner-kicks, Lorient had the better match, taking all 3 points. The first legitimate chance of the match came for Le Havre in the 24th minute, but Dieuze's shot was well-saved by Lorient GK Audard. In the 30th minute Le Havre GK Revault made an excellent double-save, first stopping Gameiro's header and then getting in front of the follow-up from Abriel. Lorient finally broke through in the 41st minute, with a streaking shot from Mansouri deflecting into the net off a defender. They doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time when Gameiro beat the offside trap and dribbled around Revault to put the ball into the empty net. Dieuze pulled 1 back for Le Havre in the 67th minute with a vicious volley off a Gillet cross, but Vohirua secured the points for Lorient minutes later when he lobbed Revault.

Nice 0-1 Lille - Lille took 20 shots in the match, but they only needed their first for the win. In the 8th minute Bastos got on the end of an Obraniak cross for the clean finish and the only goal of the match. He had an opportunity for the brace in the 11th minute, but the shot was well-saved by Nice GK Ospina. The driving rain in the second-half ensured a more defensive match, and the only good opportunity for Nice to equalize came in the 70th minute when Fae had his shot well-saved by Lille GK Malicki.

Lyon 0-0 Marseille - In the much-hyped match-up between 2 giants of French football, the resulting nil-nil draw cut kept Lyon's lead at the top from 4 points to 2 points at 3 points. The match was fairly even, but relatively slow, with more yellow cards distributed (a veritable who's who of cards going to Toulalan and Grosso for Lyon, and Zubar, Ben Arfa, and Zenden for Marseille) than shots on goal. Marseille suffered from the absence of Niang, as the striker had 8 goals in his previous 8 matches against Lyon. The first shot on goal came in the 28th minute when a well-taken Juninho free-kick was saved by Marseille GK Mandanda. The theme continued throughout the match, as Juninho had 2 more free-kicks saved by Mandanda in the 36th and 60th minutes. Marseille's first good chance came in the 33rd minute when a volley from Valbuena was stopped by Lyon GK Lloris. In the 42nd minute Govou hit the post, and that was the end of the action until late in the second-half. Samassa hit the crossbar in the 85th minute, and Kallstrom forced a final save from Mandanda in the 90th minute. The only other thing of note was that Ben Arfa, making his first return after moving to Marseille from Lyon during the summer transfer, was whistled by the Lyon fans when he was substituted in the 81st minute.

So, after matchday 18 the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, with 35 points on a 10-5-3 record and a +10 goal differential; (2) Marseille, with 32 points on an 8-8-2 record and a +12 goal differential; (3) Bordeaux, with 32 points on a 9-5-4 record and a +11 goal differential; and (4) Paris Saint-Germain, with 32 points on a 10-2-6 record and a +7 goal differential. Almost half-way through the season and things are tightening up at the top! Lyon has a fight on their hands if they want to take their 8th straight Ligue 1 title.


Mike Georger said...

"the resulting nil-nil draw cut Lyon's lead at the top from 4 points to 2 points"

How did OM cut into their lead if they drew against each other? And isn't the lead three points? And yes, I have sat here re-reading the last paragraph for five minutes trying to figure out what is going on.

Precious Roy said...

It's France, you surrender points even when you draw.

The NY Kid said...

Hey, I'm a statistician, not a mathematician!

Wait, what?

Hey, look over there ----------->