Monday, April 13, 2009

Ligue 1 Weekend Review

This week saw numerous clubs go without a goal and a shake-up at the top of the table. The result of the week goes to Marseille, as L'OM destroyed Grenoble 4-1 to take them into first place in Ligue 1.

Saturday, April 11th:

Auxerre 0-2 Bordeaux - The Brazilians were out in force for Bordeaux in this match, with Fernando and Wendel making things seem hopeless for Auxerre. Kahlenberg got off the first shot for the latter club, but it was easily saved by Bordeaux GK Rame. Fernando then scored the 1st goal in the 34th minute with a header off a Wendel corner. Birsa had a chance to equalize, but his header came back off the crossbar. In the 77th minute Wendel had his free-kick stopped by Auxerre GK Sorin, but just 3 minutes later Wendel sent home the deciding goal.

Le Havre 1-2 Caen - Caen picked up their first win since November despite Le Havre having 8 corner kicks (to 1 for Caen) from which to threaten. In the 5th minute a Savidan volley was saved by Le Havre GK Revault, but the latter was unable to stop Savidan again in the 20th minute after he sent home a 1-timer from an excellent Yatabare pass. Noro attempted to equalize with a free-kick in the 30th minute, but Caen GK Plante was well-positioned to stop the attempt. The equalizer did come in the 42nd minute when Alassane finished off a one-two with Alla. They could have even taken the lead just before the half, but Revault did well to stop a shot from ben Khalfallah. Caen then came out with increased pressure in the second half, as Nivet blasted a shot off the crossbar in the 47th minute. Their efforts were rewarded in the 87th minute when Lemaitre headed home a corner from Eluchans.

Le Mans 2-0 Sochaux - Le Mans had won only 1 of their last 14 matches before this, but get a well-deserved win here. In the 2nd minute Lamah had his header saved by Sochaux GK Richert, and a few minutes later Maiga had his shot barely cleared off the line by Perquis. Goulon then sent a shot over the crossbar. Le Mans finally got their goal in the 36th minute when Gervinho had his shot cleared by Richert, but only as far as Lamah, who sent home the rebound. In the 40th minute Gervinho should have had a goal of his own, but his free-kick was saved by Richert. Sochaux finally got an attempt on goal in the 60th minute, but Erdinq was easily stopped by Le Mans GK Pele. The second goal came in the 87th minute after Maiga finished off a defensive mistake by Mikari.

Nancy 2-0 Valenciennes - In a match where they were outshot 8-1, it wasn't until the very end that things fell apart for Valenciennes. In the 3rd minute Dia had his shot saved by Valenciennes GK Penneteau, and then Darcheville began to apply pressure for the latter club. However, Nancy responded in the second half through Hadji, who forced a save from Penneteau in the 47th minute and shot just wide in the 67th minute. In the 87th minute Darcheville and Macaluso traded headers, but neither club was able to break through. In the 91st minute Macaluso finally gave Nancy the lead with a header off a free-kick. Just 2 minutes later Traore was adjudged to have committed a handball in the area, and Hadji converted the resulting PK for the final tally.

Nice 2-0 Lorient - In a fairly even match, it was Loic Remy who made the difference for Nice. The southern club started strong, with Lorient GK Audard forced to hastily clear a Hellebuyck corner that threatened to go in directly in the 8th minute. In the 28th minute Vahirua had his free-kick poorly cleared by Kante, and Gameiro's resulting header was saved by Nice GK Ospina. Remy then struck in the second half, with both goals coming within minutes of each other. In the 58th minute Remy dribbled through the defense for a clinical finish, while in the 60th minute he finished off a one-two with Adeilson by dribbling through the defense to score again and complete his brace. Remy could have had at least a hat-trick, but he was twice denied by Audard. Lorient had 1 final chance at goal in the 88th minute, but Amalfitano was denied by Ospina.

Toulouse 1-0 Nantes - Toulouse controlled this match from the start, and earned the 3 points through some gritty play. However, the first true chance of the match came for Nantes, when an N'Daw free-kick was volleyed wide by Vainquer in the 23rd minute. In the 34th minute Mareval saw Toulouse GK Carrasso off his line and attempted to lob him, but Carrasso was able to recover. In the 41st minute Braaten sent in a well-struck corner that was headed wide by Mathieu, and Toulouse used that momentum to come out with pressure in the second half. The goal came in the 53rd minute when Didot played Braaten through, who then laid off a pass for an easy finish from Gignac. They almost struck again in the 65th minute, but a Didot free-kick deflected off Mathieu and then hit Nantes GK Alonzo in the chest and bounced out of play off the post. Mathieu was then on the other side off a deflection in the 72nd minute when his shot hit Nantes defender Pierre and went wide. Nantes had a final chance to equalize in the 90th minute but Carrasso did well to stop Abdoun.

Rennes 1-0 Saint-Etienne - In another of the weekend's well-played, even matches, Rennes eked out a win by scoring early in the second half and then hanging on for the next 40 minutes. In the 19th minute Dabo hit the crossbar for Saint-Etienne, and then Sow was stopped by Saint-Etienne GK Janot. Ilan then forced a save from Rennes GK Douchez, while Leroy hit the post in the 33rd minute. Saint-Etienne almost broke through just before the half, but Mirallas was stopped by Douchez. Almost immediately after the restart Danze sent home a header from a Sow cross for the goal. Machado and Mirallas then both forced saves from Douchez, but Rennes managed to hang on.

Sunday, April 12th:

Marseille 4-1 Grenoble - Marseille came out ready for this match after their disappointing loss in the UEFA Cup this past week, but they did not break through until the second half. The first goal came in the 52nd minute when Batlles fouled Valbuena in the box and Taiwo sent home the resulting PK. Just 4 minutes later Valbuena was involved again, as his free-kick was headed in by Hilton. Taiwo then completed his brace in the 65th minute with a brilliant free-kick. Wiltord almost had a goal off a 1-timer from a ben Arfa free-kick, but Grenoble GK Wimbee was able to make the save. The 4th goal would still come, however, when ben Arfa played Brandao through in the 89th minute for an easy finish. Grenoble did manage to get a goal back in the 93rd minute when Courtois sent a pass from Dimitrijevic into the upper corner, but it was far too late.

Lille 0-0 Paris Saint-Germain - In the most listless match of the week, both clubs fell further adrift of the top of the table. Lille had the better chances in the match, getting off 4 shots on goal to only 1 for PSG. Bastos sent an early free-kick directly at PSG GK Landreau, while Vittek sent his shot over the bar. Balmont then put another shot wide, while Hazard and Bastos elicited more saves from Landreau. PSG had their only shot on goal from Sessegnon in the second half, while Bastos had 1 final effort for Lille.

Lyon 2-2 Monaco - Lyon only managed a draw against the club from the principality despite having 14 corners from which to threaten (to 0 for Monaco), thus falling to 2nd place in Ligue 1. The match began very slowly, with both clubs playing hesitantly. Monaco drew first blood in the 34th minute when Leko scored off a counter-attack (and picked up the GSTGC award for this week by default). Just 3 minutes later Benzema hit the post for Lyon, and he and his teammates were booed off the pitch at half-time by their home supporters. Leko should have had a brace in the 48th minute, but he sent his shot wide. Lyon then had Makoun and Juninho stopped by Monaco GK Ruffier, but they finally broke through in the 65th minute when Cris beat the onrushing Ruffier to a Juninho cross. Monaco re-took the lead 1 minute later when Pino took a through-ball from Gosso and dribbled around Lloris. Things looked bleak for Lyon, but Piquionne rescued 1 point in the 81st minute with an incredible bicycle kick. Freddy Adu watch: A sighting on the bench, but still no playing time.

So, after Matchday 31 the top of the table looks like this: (1) Marseille, with 61 points on a 17-10-4 record and a +25 goal differential; (2) Lyon, with 60 points on a 17-9-5 record and a +19 goal differential; (3) Bordeaux, with 59 points on a 17-8-6 record and a +21 goal differential; and (4) Toulouse, with 56 points on a 15-11-5 record and a +17 goal differential.

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