This weekend was full of unsuprising results and relatively boring football, which is actually quite a change of pace for this season of Ligue 1. The result of the week goes to Lille, who ended the 19-match unbeaten streak of Rennes.
Saturday, January 17th:
Grenoble 0-2 Lyon - Considering that Grenoble have only scored 3 goals since October, it was not surprising that they were unable to find the back of the net in this match. Lyon completely dominated, starting things off in the 9th minute when Grenoble GK Wimbee did well to save an excellent Juninho free-kick. In just the 15th minute Benzema sent in a low cross to the far post and Ederson tapped it in to open the scoring. Grenoble's first opportunity didn't come until almost half-time, with a Feghouli free-kick well-saved by Lyon GK Lloris. The second half was more Lyon pressure, with Wimbee saving a header from Boumsong in the 55th minute before being beaten by Delgado in the 65th minute. Nearing the end of the match Toulalan hit the bar for Lyon, and Ravet was unable to pull back 1 goal for Grenoble when he sent his shot inches over the bar.
Lorient 1-1 Valenciennes - There was a lot of back-and-forth in this match, with Lorient starting off the pressure on a Vahirua free-kick which was headed by Ciani straight towards Valenciennes GK Penneteau. His club responded in the 27th minute when Danic sent a corner into the box for Darcheville to head home to put Valenciennes up 1-0. Just minutes later Penneteau was called upon to make an excellent double-save on Obertan, and Lorient finally equalized in the 43rd minute when Ciani headed home a corner. Just after half-time Amalfitano forced Penneteau into yet another save, and Darcheville was unable to put Valenciennes in front when he hit the post. The only other decent opportunity came in the 82nd minute when Valenciennes once again failed to capitalize, with Tiena putting his shot just wide of the post.
Marseille 2-0 Le Havre - Le Havre, having lost 6 in a row, looked completely listless against the southern club although they did manage 4 shots on goal. Samassa missed an early chance for L'OM and they had to wait until the 25th minute for their goal, with Cheyrou stealing a poor pass out of the defense and playing Valbuena through on goal. A short time later Zenden forced Le Havre GK Revault into a wonderful save, just tipping the shot over the crossbar. Le Havre had their first good chance in the 47th minute, with Dieuze sending his header just wide. They were made to pay in the 60th minute when a Ziani free-kick found Zubar for the easy header to make it 2-0. Marseille kept up the pressure until the end of the match, with Valbuena pushing his shot just wide and Samassa hitting the bar. L'OM's new signing Brandao came on as a substitute in the 71st minute but had nothing to show for his time on the pitch.
Nice 2-0 Auxerre - In the type of match that soccer-haters point to as fodder for their ridiculous arguments (seriously, if you can't sleep tonight, watch this match), Auxerre committed 20 fouls and only got 1 shot on goal. Not surprisingly, they have now lost 6 of their last 7 matches. Auxerre's only chance came early when Oliech sent in a volley which was easily stopped by Nice GK Ospina. Modeste then applied pressure for Nice, with a shot saved by Auxerre GK Sorin in the 35th minute and a shot that went just wide in the 36th minute. The first goal came in the 50th minute when a Hellebuyck corner came in to Remy, who needed 2 chances to finish the goal. Remy should have had a brace in the 86th minute but hit the post, and Nice got their second in stoppage time when a Diakit cross found Bamogo completely uncovered.
Saint-Etienne 1-1 Le Mans - Despite being far outshot, committing 19 fouls, and having only 33% of the possession, Le Mans managed to squeak out 1 point for the draw almost at the death. Saint-Etienne started well immediately, with Ilan forcing a save from Le Mans GK Pele in the 3rd minute, and then hitting a shot just wide in the 24th minute. Just one minute later Gomis sent in a well-timed header that Pele did well to save. The GK was called into action once again right before the half when he saved a well-struck Dernis free-kick. The second half started much as the first half did, with Ilan taking another well-struck shot, this time hitting the crossbar. The club finally broke through in the 54th minute when Gomis got onto the end of another Dernis free-kick to put Saint-Etienne up 1-0. They forced 2 more saves from Pele, with Ilan striking in the 55th minute and Matsui in the 70th minute. Le Mans managed to steal the point in the 87th minute Gervinho sent through a brilliant pass for Helstad to head home, and they could have taken all 3 points 2 minutes later when Gervinho hit the post.
Toulouse 3-0 Nancy - The final scoreline is extremely flattering to Toulouse, as their only legitimate goals came in the final 10 minutes of the match. Still, the club has only 1 loss in their past 9 matches and they continue to pressure those above them in the table. Each club had only 1 decent opportunity in the first half, with Toulouse GK Carrasso saving a Gavanon free-kick in the 7th minute and Nancy GK Bracigliano stopping Braate in the 18th minute. The opening goal came in first-half stoppage time when Nancy defender Luiz attempted a clearance which wound up under his own crossbar for the OG (Luiz also received a yellow card in the 30th minute for a tackle which injured Toulouse captain Didot, but we don't give out awards to OG-scorers). The rest of the match devolved quickly into Route 1 football, but Toulouse snuck a 2nd goal in the 81st minute through a brilliant solo effort by Ligue 1-leading scorer Gignac. The prolific striker then turned distributor in the 88th minute, sending in a wonderful cross for Paulo Cesar to finish.
Nantes 1-2 Bordeaux - Bordeaux has won 5 matches in a row to continue their harassment of Ligue 1 leaders Lyon, although their victory in this match may have been due to some irregularities in time-keeping (not really; dear ESPN, if Nantes have 44% of the possession, it is not mathematically possible for Bordeaux to have 57% of the possession). Les Bleus "savior" Gourcuff sent in a shot just wide in the 5th minute as a signal of intent, and headed home a Tremoulinas cross in the 11th minute to open the scoring for Bordeaux. In the 20th minute Gourcuff struck an excellent free-kick which forced an even better save from Nantes GK Alonzo. Bordeaux should have doubled their lead in the 30th minute but Wendell's header was cleared off the line by Moullec. Nantes had their 1st good chance in the 37th minute, but De Freitas sent his header over the bar. The club continued their push at the start of the second half, with Bekamenga sending a shot just wide in the 60th minute, and N'Daw striking a similar shot just 1 minute later. But it was Bordeaux that got the next goal when Nantes GK Alonzo made a critical error in judgement on a Wendell corner, allowing Chamakh to head the ball home into an open goal (and giving Chamakh this week's "Goal-scorer to get carded award" as he received a YC in the 42nd minute). Nantes managed their goal on a similar error by Bordeaux GK Rame on a free-kick from Capoue, allowing Djordjevic to send the ball home in the 89th minute.
Sunday, January 18th:
Caen 2-2 Monaco - Faltering Monaco watched Caen score 2 goals (on their only 2 shots on goal) in the final 20 minutes to steal 1 point from this match. Seube had the first chance of the match for Caen in the 4th minute but put his shot over the bar. Monaco capitalized just 2 minutes later with a wonderful solo effort from Pino, who just missed a brace in the 16th minute with a free-kick that went wide. In the 24th minute an excellent Mollo cross found Alonso for Monaco's 2nd goal. The second half saw increased pressure from Caen, with Seube forcing a save from Monaco GK Thuram in the 59th minute. Gomis hit the crossbar soon after, and Caen broke through in the 73rd minute when Savidan headed home a cross from Khalfallah. Monaco still looked to have the 3 points in head until the 2nd minute of stoppage time when Deroin found Nivet in front of the net for the equalizer. Freddy Adu watch: Not even on the bench. Dear Freddy, perhaps you should consider other options.
Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Sochaux - PSG kept pace with the clubs ahead of them in the table with a surprisingly difficult win against Sochaux. In the 1st minute Rothen latched onto the end of a long throw from Ceara but put his shot over the crossbar. Shortly after Luyindula was well-saved (twice) by Sochaux GK Gavanon. Luyindula's day would get worse, as a scuffed shot from Sessegnon landed at his feet and he missed a wide-open net. In first-half stoppage time Perquis fouled Rothen in the box, and emerging star Hoarau slotted home the PK to give PSG the lead. Just after the start of the second half Sverkos gave Sochaux the equalizer off a quick counter-attack. Luyindula made up for his earlier miss in the 63rd minute when he was found at the far post by Armand flicking on Rothen's corner, and put in the match-winner. Sochaux had a final chance to equalize, but Santos' 20-yard volley was well-saved by PSG GK Landreau.
Lille 1-0 Rennes - In an extremely exciting match Lille pressured the Rennes defense for a solid 90 minutes and finally put an end to the latter club's unbeaten streak. In the 12th minute Frau put his header on frame but it was stopped by Rennes GK Douchez. Rennes got their best chance of the match a few minutes later when Pagis sent in a cross for Sow to head home, but Lille GK Malicki made a brilliant save to tip the shot onto the crossbar and Sow's follow-up header was cleared off the line by Debuchy. In the 25th minute Frau sent in a difficult shot which Douchez fumbled, but the GK was able to swat the ball away at the last second. The pressure continued with a shot from Debuchy in the 35th minute, but his header was wide and he had to leave the match after being injured in a poor challenge from Sow. The second half was more of the same, as Bastos shot just over the crossbar in the 50th minute and Frau forced Douchez into yet another save a few minutes later. The goal finally came in the 75th minute when Favergue's shot deflected off Rennes defender Hansson and past an exhausted Douchez.
So, after matchday 21 the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, with 42 points on a 12-6-3 record and a +13 goal differential; (2) Bordeaux, with 41 points on a 12-5-4 record and a +17 goal differential; (3) Marseille, with 38 points on a 10-8-3 and a +13 goal differential; and (4) Rennes, with 37 points on a 9-10-2 record and a +11 goal differential.