FRANCE: Ligue 1 – Week 1 Review

France

Montpellier 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain

The reigning champions started this game with a familiar looking team and surprised some by leaving new boy Edison Cavani on the bench. They began the game brightly, however, Montpellier were looking for the upset from the off.

Buoyed by a vociferous home crowd, Montpellier looked to press in the first half and disrupt PSG’s passing. Their efforts paid off as early as the 10th minute, as Zlatan Ibrahimovich was disposed at the halfway line and Emanuel Herrera broke free with the ball. His shot was deflected, however the optimistic Remy Cabella, who had followed on with a great run to the right, picked up the loose ball within the area and applied a deft first time finish to make it 1-0.

Ibra was perhaps understandably unhappy that play was allowed to go in the run up to the goal – he felt he was fouled and should have had a free-kick. However his remonstrations fell on deaf ears.

Cabella was a constant thorn in the expensively assembled team’s side – going close again from range, and buzzing around the forward line throughout. PSG however, stuck to their guns and amassed 64% possession over the course of the game.

That control finally told in the 60th minute – a superb dinked ball from Javier Pastore found the head of Zlatan in the area, who calmly knocked it into the path of Maxwell. The Brazilian finished emphatically for the equaliser.

It was all PSG from that point, with Pastore again providing the ammunition – first for Cavani whose bullet header was denied by the boot of Siaka Tiéné, and then Rabiot who could only find the goalkeeper with his effort.

Montpellier than lost Adbelhamid El Kaoutari to a second bookable offence and could only sit back to hold on for the point. PSG will be disappointed they could not capitalize on their advantage, and will be left to reflect on the fact that they have drawn the first game in each of the last 3 seasons.

Bordeaux 0-2 Monaco

Claudio Ranieri handed debuts to 6 of his summer signings for the big spending clubs’ return to Ligue 1. The quality showed from the beginning, with his Monaco side dominating possession and creating various chances. Home-grown talent Yannick Ferreira Carrasco was the first to test the Bordeaux goal, with a rasping shot, followed by Argentine youngster Ocampo who rattled the woodwork from an acute angle.

James Rodriguez looked excellent throughout the midfield, and almost opened the scoring when he dinked and shimmied on the edge of the 18, forcing a fine save from the beleaguered Cédric Carrasso in goal.

However, the teams went in level at the break and Bordeaux looked every bit the miserly defence that had ground out results last term. After the break Monaco’s momentum ebbed away and the game suffered some lulls until Jaroslav Plasil found space on the edge of the 18 yard box but could only drag his shot wide of the post.

It was a rare break for Bordeaux, and in the 82nd minute their concentration finally broke – a cross from Layvin Kurzawa (who impressed as an attacking full back all game) wasn’t dealt with in the area and substitute Emmanuel Riviere found himself with a clear sight of goal. The relief was plain to see on the Monaco faces, while Bordeaux’s players were left deflated.

Minutes later and the man everyone was desperate to see in action finally found some – Radamel Falcao, so quiet throughout the game, nipped inside the box near the right touchline and took full advantage of Lamine Sané’s hasty attempt at a clearance. The striker quickly took control and placed a simple shot into the bottom right corner, out of the goalkeepers reach.

A solid opening performance from the newly promoted side then, especially with a 2 point penalty still hanging over their heads this season. Bordeaux will have to bounce back quickly for the Garonne derby with Toulouse next weekend.

Evian 1-1 Sochaux

Evian will rue several missed chances in the first half of this encounter, only capitalizing on the one – Daniel Wass’ free-kick whipped into the middle of the area, where Fabrice Ehret met it with a fine header to make the score 1-0.

The home sides 15 shots only produced 7 on target, which goes some way to explaining the fact that they did not increase their lead.

After the break the home fans urged their team for more of the same, however the chances did not materialize and Evian were finally punished for their wastefulness. Roy Contout worked hard in the Sochaux attack to find space on the edge of the area. The Evian defence appeared to back off and allowed the Sochaux man to rifle home an excellent effort to level the scores.

Sochaux then had a chance to win the game, Edouard Butin being disappointed to see an offside flag raised after he believed he had given the away side the lead, and Bertrand Laquait doing well to save another effort from Contout late in the game.

Lille 1-0 Lorient

A game of few chances and some nervy displays opened the new season at Stade Pierre Mauroy. Lille’s will be satisfied with the 3 points, courtesy of Divock Origi’s goal in the 13th minute.

The 18 year old is not expected to be a regular starter this term; however with Thauvin and Roux as yet unavailable, it fell to the youngster to provide the attacking spark. Salomon Kalou will be disappointed he could not add to the tally, the former Chelsea man not making the most of three glorious chance sin the second half.

Lorient were only effective in bursts, and never truly threatened to get back into the game. Lamine Gassama was sent off late on, and Lille comfortably held on for the win.

Lyon 4-0 Nice

Before the game, Lyon said goodbye to an emotional Lisandro Lopez, who makes his way to Al Gharafa in Qatar. Fellow strikers Gomis and Briand were missing in action too – although Gomis was present at the Stade Municipal de Gerland amid rumours his transfer may be off (again).

Alexandre Lacazette stepped into the goal-scoring breech then, firing his and Lyon’s first after 13 minutes. Captain Clement Grenier combined well with Gourcuff in the build up, not for the last time in this game.

Nice had their chances before the break – both Christian Brüls and Valentin Eysseric going close only to be denied by OL’s Anthony Lopes. As halftime came, the Nice coach Claude Puel may have felt quite confident that his team could snatch something from this game.

However, Lyon stepped up a gear in the second period, Gourcuff especially coming to life. He provided the assist with a stunning cross for Grenier to power home a header in the 54th minute, and Lacazette helped himself to a second Lyon’s 3rd in the 69th minute – hitting Nice on a quick counter after a corner kick.

The stage then was set for Gourcuff to complete his man of the match performance. A free-kick from some distance was eyed up intently, as the clock ticked over 90. The former France international, whose future at the club still remains unclear, stepped up and wrapped a superb

Nantes 2-0 Bastia

Nantes returned to the top flight with a well-earned win, in a game which saw both teams finish with 10 men.

Bastia took control from the off, however a superb through ball from Serge Gakpé saw Filip Djordjevic with space in behind the defence, and he finished with a crisp volley to put the home side ahead.

Bastia then found some hope on 65 mins when Jordan Veretout was given a 2nd yellow for a rash challenge. However the advantage wasn’t made to pay as Bastia then found themselves down to 10 men just 5 minutes later – striker Ilan getting his marching orders for a dangerous tackle.

The match was over as a contest as the clock ticked down, and a Julian Palmieri own-goal finally sealed it for the hosts.

Rennes 2-1 Reims

Rennes coach Philippe Montanier got off to the best of starts, seeing Vincent Pajot volley home after just 9 first-half minutes. However, Reims did not lie down as he may have hoped, and the coach had much to do at the break.

Confidence couldn’t have gotten much lower at Rennes after the terrible run of form that saw them end last season with 1 win in 14, and those old worries may well have come back as their advantage slipped in this game.

Polish defender Grzegorz Krychowiak came up with the equaliser for Reims just after the kick-off for the 2nd half, and the team looked to be on the front foot. Reims ended the game with 17 shooting attempts, although only 5 managed to find the target.

Nelson Oliveira made his debut from the bench and looked lively for Rennes, and the away team’s punishment finally came for their wasteful ways in the 84th minute. Mevlut Erding picked up the ball wide on the right and twisted past two Reim defenders before calmly slotting into the far corner. The 3 points will be a much needed confidence boost for the new coach.

Valenciennes 3-0 Toulouse

A close encounter at the Stade du Hainaut was suddenly skewed wildly out of Toulouse’s hands on 35 minutes when Uros Spajic found himself dismissed on his debut. The resultant penalty was dispatched by Maor Melikson and Valenciennces did not look back.

The attacking performance will have please coach Daniel Sanchez, with further goals added from Jose Saez (52’) and Gregory Pujol (93’). The club look to be in good shape, despite losing Gael Danic over the summer.

Toulouse meanwhile looked very poor as they struggled to find any rhythm. They will look to bounce back against Bordeaux next weekend, where they will be relieved to have the full 11 men back on the field.

Ajaccio 0-1 Saint-Etienne

Fabrizio Ravanelli made his coaching debut in front of a partisan home crowd in this game; however Ajaccio could do nothing to provide him with any further cause to celebrate.

Despite looking lively in the early going, Ajaccio lost their way after falling behind to a 34th minute strike from Brandao. The Brazilian has a lot to live up to this year with the departure of the teams’ star player from last season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He managed to take his chances in this one well, and gave Les Verts an option up front at all times.

The worrying news for Christophe Galtier is that new signing Franck Tabanou had to be substituted in the 46’ minute after picking up a knock, ho0wever he will be confident that his side is well prepared for the season ahead.

Ravanelli may have some serious thinking to do – not least on how to link up his midfield with the increasingly isolated Adrian Mutu up front. The sending off of Benjamin Andre late on did the team no favours, and the Italian coach will be looking for much improvement over the coming months.

Guingamp 1-3 Marseille

Guingamp returned to the top division after a 9 season absence, but will wish they had not bothered on the basis of this performance. The scoreboard after 16 minutes read 0-3 and manager Jocelyn Gourvennec will be left contemplating a tough season ahead.

Marseille’s prolific Andre-Pierre Gignac opened the scoring in just the 2nd minute, neatly finishing after a rebound landed in his path. One minute later and debutant Dimitri Payet had made it 2-0, capitalizing on some poor defending as the Guingamp defence failed to clear a cross.

Payet then completed his teams scoring in just the 16th minute, and will be glad to be off the mark for his new club. Marseille coach Elie Baup will also be happy with the contributions of Andre Ayew the ever reliable Mathieu Valbuena, who went close himself with an acrobatic volley which gained his side a corner.

Guingamp looked poor all over the pitch and will likely struggle with the step up in class from Ligue 2. Striker Mustapha Yatabaré had a particularly poor evening, missing several chances in front of goal and seeing a penalty saved by Mandanda in the Marseille goal. Last season top scorer with 23 in Ligue 2, Yatabaré will need to be sharper if Guingamp hope to survive in the top flight this year.

Marseille off to a good start, against poor opposition, will hope to push on from here and will be glad to have picked up all 3 points in a weekend where PSG could only draw.

STANDINGS

20130812 - Ligue 1

Andrew Davidson

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