• Monday, 13 September 2010

    French bookies in a lather: Ligue 1 reviews

    Auxerre 1-1 Caen
    Lyon 1-1 Valenciennes
    Montpellier 1-2 Nancy
    PSG 4-0 Arles
    Rennes 2-1 Sochaux
    Toulouse 0-1 St Etienne
    Lens 1-4 Lille
    Brest 0-0 Lorient
    Nice 2-1 Bordeaux
    Marseille 2-2 Monaco

    You would have thought that after five rounds of fixtures that the big clubs in Ligue 1 would, if not have asserted themselves at the top, at least looked like moving in an upward direction. Not so. Still the bookmaker's pre-season favourites languish in the bottom half after another week where none of them won. Measure the heart rate of a French bookie and stand back in amazement. If this continues, they're going to take a bath on this season. Neither does it bode well for any of the French sides in the Champions League. The group stage begins this week with the three representatives in stinking rotten form. Auxerre have yet to get a league win under their belts yet, drawing for the fourth time this season at the weekend. The one bright spot for AJA has been skipper Benoit Pedretti and he opened the scoring against Caen in the 20th minute, some great footwork starting the move and finishing with a low, left-footed drive. Youssef El Arabi had gone close in the first half, but rescued a point three minutes into stoppage time, a low cross coming off his shin and past Olivier Sorin. A similar story for Lyon who were in front against Valenciennes through Jeremy Pied, but conceded an equaliser midway through the second half, a bullet header from Gaetan Bong whose late run into the box at a corner simply wasn't picked up. Marseille had to equalise twice to save a point against Monaco. Daniel Niculae had the Monagasques in front with a finish from an impossibly tight angle quarter of an hour in, but the sides went into half-time level after Mathieu Valbuena slammed in a shot from 15 yards following a spell of sustained OM pressure. With eleven minutes to go, Park Chu-Young capitalised on a defensive mix-up to restore Monaco's lead, but within a minute, Adriano put through his own net, turning a low cross in from point blank range.

    Bordeaux fared even worse, going down to a 2-1 defeat in Nice. Eric Mouloungui put Nice in front ten minutes from half time, cutting in from the left and finishing right-footed. Habib Bamogo made the game safe in the last minute, a delicate finish over the keeper, but Bordeaux did get one back in stoppages, Anthony Modeste with a penalty. Bordeaux remain in the bottom three. Below them are Lens, beaten heavily in the derby against Lille after having two men sent off. Gervinho put Lille ahead midway through the first half before Lens were reduced to ten when Sebastien Roudet was sent off. Early in the second half, Issam Jemaa followed after a second booking, but Lens were level on the hour Abdoulrazak Boukari with a powerful header. It couldn't and didn't last. Pierre-Alain Frau got two in two minutes, the first after Lens keeper Vedran Runje could only palm Yohan Cabaye's long range shot onto the bar. The second was rather more routine, turning in a headed cross from five yards. Gervinho wrapped it up late on with a firm header as the nine men crumbled. Arles remain rooted to bottom with no points and another four goals against, this time with none coming back the other way. PSG overwhelmed them from the off and Arles sat so deep, it was just a matter of time. The entire defence running away to leave Guillaume Hoarau on his own, onside, ten yards from goal certainly isn't good for your chances of winning games, but that's what they did twenty minutes in. He scored, of course. Ten minutes later, a deep corner was met on the slide by Mamadou Sakho for 2-0. After the break which saw the traditional Parc des Princes half-time entertainment of home fans scuffling with each other, Nene floated in a beautiful free kick for 3-0 and the brazilian added a fourth a few minutes later, a nice little dink over the advancing keeper. Arles, sad to say, stink.

    Toulouse remain top despite a loss, their first of the season, to St Etienne who consolidate their third place. Just the one goal, Laurent Batlles getting in front of his marker to head in. Rennes remain second after a late winner against Sochaux. Rennes led after five minutes, Kevin Theophile-Catherine heading in from a corner, but the sides went in level after Damien Perquis got a slight brush of his head on a free-kick a few minutes from half-time. And so it looked likely to remain until Kader Mangane stole in at the back post to poke home a driven cross. Brest and Lorient battled to a goalless draw while Montpellier slip to fifth after defeat to ten man Nancy, Joel Sami picking up his second yellow three minutes into the second half. Nancy were already two up by then, Djamel Bakar quickest to react as the MHSC keeper spilled a long range shot and Bakaye Traore - no French side is complete without a Traore - with a neat finish on the turn. Marco Estrada curled the free-kick in after Sami's dismissal, but they couldn't find a way past the resolute ten men.

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