This week saw several nil-nil draws and a shocking lack of GSTGC candidates. To make up for this, we got some bonus footy, as the 3 postponed matches from Matchday 20 were made up on Tuesday. The result of the week goes to Lyon, who beat Nancy 2-0 to increase their lead atop the standings.
Tuesday, February 17th:
Valenciennes 2-0 Caen - Although Caen had 59% of the possession, it was Valenciennes' 8 shots on goal which made the difference in this match. Despite being without sparkplug Darcheville, Valenciennes started early with a Lacourt goal in the 10th minute off a centering pass from Ducoutioux. Caen's only opportunity of the first half came in the form of a shot from ben Khalfallah which was easily saved by Valenciennes GK Penneteau. Lacourt should have had a brace in the 71st minute but he put his shot over the crossbar, and he could have had an assist just minutes later but Puyol sent the header wide. Valenciennes secured the 3 points in the 91st minute as Bangoura did some nice work down the right wing and laid the ball off to Danic for an easy finish.
Le Mans 0-0 Lille - Lille had 64% of the possession but still couldn't break through against Le Mans, who had been winless in 6 of their last 7 matches. The first half of the match saw no significant chances from either club, and the second half saw more yellow cards than shots on goal as the match devolved into handbags almost immediately after the restart. Le Mans did manage a goal from Helstad, but he was ruled offside. Beria then should have put Lille ahead in the 60th minute, but his shot was cleared off the line by defender Camara. Just minutes later Lille GK Malicki made a fantastic save on a volley from 25-yards by Lamah, and the clubs settled for 1 point each.
Nancy 1-2 Nice - Nice started off strong and pressured Nancy throughout the entire match. In the 5th minute Bamogo forced a save from Nancy GK Bracigliano, and that was repeated in the 16th and 35th minutes. On the other end Luiz forced a save from Nice GK Ospina, but that was their only attempt of the first half. Nice struck in the 48th minute through Traore, but Nancy equalized in the 58th minute with a shot from Berenguer. Fortunately for the southern club, they were able to steal the 3 points at the death with a well-weighted through ball from ben Saada finding Hellebuyck for an easy finish in the 90th minute.
Saturday, February 21st:
Grenoble 0-0 Paris Saint-Germain - PSG missed the opportunity to keep pace in the standings as they were held to a scoreless draw by Grenoble in a tightly-contested match. High-flying striker Hoarau had 2 early chances to put PSG ahead, heading wide in the 14th minute and missing the goal from 3 yards out in the 21st minute. Just minutes later Grenoble almost pulled ahead as a fierce volley from Feghouli was well-saved by PSG GK Landreau. The second half provided more action, as Giuly volleyed wide and Ceara was saved by Grenoble GK Wimbee. Grenoble had 2 final chances in the last 10 minutes to take the 3 points, but Cesar headed over the crossbar while Boya sent his shot straight into the arms of Landreau.
Le Havre 1-2 Auxerre - Auxerre got off to a flying start, as Kahlenberg scored the fastest goal of the Ligue 1 season in the 1st minute after an incredibly poor attempt at a clearance from the defense, perhaps demonstrating why Le Havre have lost 10 of their last 12. Just 2 minutes later Jelen beat Le Havre GK Revault but had his shot cleared off the line. Le Havre equalized in the 36th minute as a free-kick from Anin came back off the post to Lesage for an easy finish. Immediately after the restart Auxerre GK Sorin made nice saves against Diallo and Baca to maintain the tie. His efforts were rewarded in the 79th minute when some well-worked passing found its way to Birsa in front of goal for the winner.
Lorient 1-2 Sochaux - Sochaux managed their first away win of the season after being down 1-0 early to Lorient. The goal for the latter club came in the 23rd minute when Gameiro received a pass from Vahirua and proceeded to dribble around 3 defenders (sadly, I couldn't find any video). Gameiro should have had a brace in the 29th minute, but he was stopped 1-on-1 by Sochaux GK Richert. In the 66th minute Maurice-Belay played Sverkos through with a nice pass for the equalizer. The winner came in injury time, as Erdinq (who had been stopped twice by Lorient GK Audard earlier in the match) completely fooled the GK to snatch the 3 points.
Nancy 0-2 Lyon - Claude Puel started something of a "B" side for this match with Benzema, Ederson, Juninho, Keita, and Grosso on the bench ahead of their Champions League tie against Barcelona, and received a well-earned win for his tactical decision. Delgado, starting in place of Juninho, threatened the Nancy goal consistently, although his finishing left something to be desired. The first goal came in the 19th minute as Cris was left alone at the back post and headed in the corner from Delgado, and Nancy GK Bracigliano was kept busy for the rest of the half. In the 50th minute Gassama brought down Brison in the box for a Nancy PK. The latter was taken by Hadji, but he was stoned by Lyon GK Lloris, who made a nice save on Hadji's eventuall follow-up as well (and remind me, Raymond, why he doesn't start for Les Bleus?). Nancy did pick up the pressure after the missed PK, with Lloris saving shots from Feret (51st minute), Brison (67th minute), and Hadji (88th minute). Benzema, who was a 66th minute substitute, finished off the match with a goal in the 92nd minute after beautiful pass from Makoun.
Nantes 1-1 Caen - Caen, with 0 wins in their last 11 matches, at least managed to hold on to a draw after an early goal. In the 3rd minute Seube picked off a bad throw-in from das Neves and passed to Deroin to provide Caen with the lead. Nantes thought they had equalized in the 14th minute after Bekamenga had scored, but the referee had already blown his whistle for a (questionable) foul. In the 35th minute Caen missed doubling their lead when a Proment free-kick hit the bar, and they would rue the miss 10 minutes later when Bekamenga scored off a da Rocha free-kick to equalize. Nantes continued to press in the second half, with Bekamenga feeding Plasnic, who was stopped by Caen GK Plante, and then taking the shot himself, only to put his effort over the bar. Djordjevic had 1 final chance for Nantes in the 82nd minute but he missed his opportunity despite being alone on goal.
Toulouse 0-0 Valenciennes - Toulouse missed the opportunity to move into 2nd place in the Ligue 1 table as they were held by Valenciennes. In the 7th minute Lacourt was stopped by Toulouse GK Carrasso, who also made a a nice save on Sanchez just 1 minute later. In the 36th minute Mathieu missed the chance to put Toulouse ahead, hitting the crossbar with his shot. The second half was dominated by Toulouse, but Valenciennes GK Penneteau stopped Fofana in the 60th minute and Bonnet in the 70th minute, while Ebondo put his shot over the bar in the 77th minute.
Nice 0-1 Rennes - Rennes managed only their 3rd away win of the season thanks to the excellent effort of Thomert, Briand and Cheyrou. The latter 2 players combined early to force a save from Nice GK Ospina, and the former sent in a nasty volley in the 30th minute that required Ospina to perform well. Disaster almost struck right before the half for Rennes as there was a near-OG by defender Hansson, but the ball was turned out just in time for a corner. Nice began to strike back in the second half, with Rennes GK Douchez stopping Remy in the 50th minute and saving a Sable free-kick in the 60th minute. Nice should have taken the lead in the 66th minute when Mouloungui had his shot beat Douchez, but his shot deflected wide off his own teammate Sable. The only goal of the match came on the last significant opportunity for either side, with Cheyrou passing to Briand who crossed the ball to Thomert for the finish in the 68th minute.
Sunday, February 22nd:
Marseille 0-0 Le Mans - Marseille had 72% of the possession, took 27 shots (only 3 on goal), and were playing a club with 0 wins since November. Naturally, they blew their opportunity to make up ground on Ligue 1 leaders Lyon. Zenden provided most of the pressure for L'OM, forcing Le Mans GK Pele into several early saves. On the other end of the pitch Le Tallec tested Marseille GK Mandanda before hitting the woodwork. The second half was more of the same, with Zenden hitting the post twice. Le Mans had 1 final opportunity to steal the 3 points, but Coutadeur put his shot over the crossbar.
Saint-Etienne 1-1 Bordeaux - Bordeaux missed the chance to move ahead in the standings after eking out a draw against bottom-dwellers Saint-Etienne at the death. The clubs traded shots in the first half, with Bordeaux GK Valverde stopping Machado and Sall, and Saint-Etienne GK Janot making a brilliant double-save on Gouffran and Cavenaghi. Early in the second half Janot stopped Gourcuff, and in the 54th minute Matuidi rewarded his GK's efforts with a 15-yard strike to put Saint-Etienne ahead. Just 4 minutes later Machado hit the post and Saint-Etienne would rue the miss when Chamakh flicked a corner onto to Cavenaghi for the equalizing header in the 90th minute.
Lille 2-1 Monaco - Goals came very early and very late in this match, as struggling Monaco fell once again. Lille struck in the 12th minute when Bastos raced down the right side and crossed for a perfect header from Obraniak. Park and Pino then provided some pressure for Monaco, but the latter went off injured in the 44th minute and was replaced by Licata. Lille GK Malicki and Monaco GK Ruffier both made several saves in the second half, and the match looked like it would end in a 1-0 victory. In the 93rd minute a cross from Hazard found 76th minute substitute Dumont for the 2-0 lead. Adriano hit a stunning free-kick in off the post in the 94th minute for the final tally, but it was too late for the club from the principality. Freddy Adu watch: Once again, nowhere in sight, not even on the bench.
So, after Matchday 25 the top of the table looks like this: (1) Lyon, with 52 points on a 15-7-3 record and a +19 goal differential; (2) Paris Saint-Germain, with 46 points on a 14-4-7 record and a +10 goal differential; (3) Marseille, with 45 points on a 12-9-4- record and a +14 goal differential; and (4) Toulouse, with 45 points on a 12-9-4 record and a +11 goal differential.