FRANCE: Ligue 1 – Week 2 Review




Fabrizio Ravanelli returned to the capital – the scene of one of his most infamous moments as a Marseille player – with an Ajaccio team set-up to nick a point against the reigning champions. The Italian hoped to emulate the side’s two draws with their big spending rivals from last season, but had it not been for Edison Cavani’s late intervention he may well have come away with all 3 points.

Laurent Blanc sent the Uruguayan on from the start this week, and Cavani looked good in his first appearance in front of the Parc des Princes crowd. He was outshone however by the outstanding performance of Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. PSG recorded an incredible 39 shots at goal (17 of which were on target), but the goalkeeper kept them out until the 86th minute.

Ajaccio’s new recruit, Benoit Pedretti had their solitary shot at goal in the game, and he made it count – curling in a wonderfully unstoppable effort in the 9th minute to give the away side the lead. The team seemed happy to work to keep this lead from that point on, and you got the feeling that it would be a long night for the coastal club.

That proved to be true as PSG took the initiative and dominated the rest of the match. A total of 77% possession was racked up as the Paris club thrilled the home crowd, but seemed unable to find the vital goal. Cavani worked hard, going close with a header and then finding a shot blocked by Ronald Zubar early in the second half.

Pedretti was the centre of attention again on the hour, when he found himself the last man back to clear an Alex header off the line for another near miss. Six minutes later, Ochoa was at hand to save brilliantly from an Ibra free-kick. As time ticked down, chance after chance seemed to end up in Ochoa’s hands one way or another. When he was finally beaten by a crashing header from Thiago Silva, the Brazilian was distressed to see his effort rebound back off the crossbar.

The excitement was halted for several minutes at the hour mark, when highly-rated PSG man Blaise Matuidi clashed with Joshua Nadeau. The Ajaccio debutant was sent to hospital, along with the France international, both men requiring some stitches after a particularly violent clash of heads.

The breakthrough finally came in the 86th. After providing plenty of evidence that the team of Cavani and Ibrahimovich could link up effectively, it was a piece of individual excellence from France’s most expensive player that sealed the point for his team. Receiving the ball from the right, Cavani gracefully took control and turned immediately, wrong footing the defence, and creating just a yard of space – enough to unleash an unbelievable effort into the top left corner. After his phenomenal work, Ochoa will have been disappointed, but know that he could do nothing to stop the sensational finish.

The goalkeeper didn’t let the goal affect him though, and he was called on again before the end to ensure the Corsican club held on to their point. It was down to Thiago Silva to beat the Argentinian yet again – only to see his rasping drive reflect off the crossbar for the second time.

Laurent Blanc will not be pleased with his sides’ league position, sitting in 13th place after 2 rounds; however he will be pleased at the potential his attack has shown. Sides will no doubt sit back and try to frustrate the champions this year, and it will be down to Blanc and his men to find a way to convert chances into goals.


The new look AS Monaco made their home debut in Ligue 1 this season, and left their fans with much to look forward to if this game was any indication. Montpellier arrived in fine fettle after their opener with PSG a week earlier, however the home team took the initiative from the off and never looked in any danger.

Claudio Ranieri made some forced changes to his starting line-up, after being robbed of the services of big money signings Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, and deciding to give a chance to last week’s goal scoring hero Emmanuel Riviere.

It took just 15 minutes for the attacking side to show their dominance – the excellent Lucas Ocampos using his skill to force Siaka Tienne into a rash challenge. The referee had no hesitation in awarding the spot-kick, and Falcao showed little in dispatching it. He sent Montpellier ‘keeper Laurent Pionnier the wrong way and wheeled off to celebrate in front of the home crowd for the first time.

Despite Monaco’s dominance, it was Montpelier’s Colombian who struck next. Victor Hugo Montano found the target, against the run of play, marking his return to the club after 2 years at Rennes. The goal didn’t quite halt the tide however, and Monaco went in at the break feeling comfortable, despite the 1-1 scoreline.

However, Monaco were undeterred, and their patience told before the break. Emmanuel Riviere, perhaps benefitting from the extra attentions being shown to his strike partner, found himself in behind the defence and kept his cool to finish with a delicate lob over Pionnier.

Ranieri will have asked for more of the same in his half-time talk, and his new charges certainly delivered. A corner from Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco caused trouble in the Montpellier defence, and Riviere managed to stab home for his second of the game.

The game got away from Montpellier entirely in the 64th minute as Daniel Congre failed to keep up with Carrasco, who was superb on the night, and found himself on the receiving end of a red card – the second the club has had to deal with in 2 games.

The Frenchman then completed the task with his easiest goal in the 79th – a header from a Carrasco rebound, which gave him his hat-trick and his 4th goal of the new season. Few would have expected the former Toulouse man to be the clubs top scorer at any stage this year.


Lorient came into this game off the back of a first week loss, and hoped to step up the pressure against the Ligue 1 new boys in front of an expectant Stade du Moustoir crowd. However it was the newly promoted side who struck first through Olivier Veigneau.

The attacking left-back, hit a sweeping cross into the home sides’ area in just the 17th minute, and was delighted to see it misfire, beating Fabien Audard on his line and nestling into the top right-hand corner. It was perhaps harsh on Les Merlus after they had made a bright start.

Lorient’s class was undeniable though, and their dominance of possession in the first period was eventually rewarded. Maxime Baca picked out striker Vincent Aboubakar with a fine through-ball, and the Cameroonian made the finish count. The scores were level at 1-1 as the teams went in for the break.

Lorient piled yet more pressure on in the second period, racking up 61% possession, and it felt like they just needed one clear cut chance. Playmaker Yann Jouffre tried his best, causing problems for Nantes at the back; however it was Jeremie Aliadiere who finally broke the deadlock.

With 60 minutes gone, the former Arsenal man found himself standing over a free-kick on the edge of the 18 yard box, after himself being fouled. He did not hesitate in firing a blistering shot into the top-left corner – leaving goalkeeper Remy Riou with stinging finger.

Nantes had a good go at it after the goal, but in the end Lorient felt comfortable and restricted the Canaris to just 3 shots on target.


Marseille continued their comfortable start to the campaign, with a result which was never really in doubt to kick off their home fixtures.

Evian looked lightweight in attack for the whole game, and will have been at pains to notice their former star man, Saber Khalifa, did not even make it into OM’s match squad. Elie Baup preferred to stick with what has worked of late, and his team didn’t disappoint.

In the 16th minute, Gignac was set free by Rod Fanni, and he showed much guile to glide past John Mensah at the back. He still had much to do to get past goalkeeper Bertrand Laquait, however the France international was up to the task – delivering a precise side-footed finish to make it 1-0.

Marseille continued to look dangerous – new signing Dmitri Payet, fresh from his appearance for France against Belgium on Wednesday night, linking well with Mathieu Valbuena and Gignac in attack. The trio will cause some terror among Ligue 1 defences’ this season, if the first 2 games are anything to judge by.

It took until the 67th minute for the home side to finish the scoring, Payet himself the grateful receiver of a Valbuena cross. He made certain to make himself space from the lurking Mensah, before firing home and delighting the home support. This was the new signings third goal for OM so far this season, and he looks worthy of every penny of his hefty transfer fee.

The future looks bright for Marseille, and with a solid defence behind their attacking potency they may yet prove to be a real contender for Ligue 1 this year.


Saint-Etienne are off to the best possible start to the new season, with a second win here against the newly promoted Guingamp. Many believed Christophe Galtier’s side would falter this term with the departure of top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, however 6 points on the board will work wonders for confidence.

Guingamp meanwhile will have plenty to reflect on after their 2nd loss of the campaign. Under pressure from the off, they first caused danger for themselves, giving away a needless free-kick close to goal. Romain Hamouma made the most of the effort, testing goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa, and was unlucky that none of his teammates could pick up from his rebound.

Hamouma continued to be a constant thorn in the side for the Guingamp defence, and will be unhappy that he could not mark the first half with a goal or an assist despite his clever wing play.

The breakthrough finally came on 52’, with midfielder Fabien Lemoine stepping in to be the hero. His first time effort, from a Brandao assist, was hit with perfect technique, and Samassa could do nothing to stop it – the shot rifling into the top left corner.

Les Verts sent their fans away from Stade Geoffroy-Guichard happy, comfortably maintaining their slender lead, and picking up all three points. Back to the drawing board for Guingamp….


Stade Reims bounced back from their opening day defeat to claim all 3 points in this one. Lille came into the game confident of getting a result, but the home team made things difficult from the off.

Mads Albaek, making his debut for the club, started things off in excellent fashion, fashioning a goal after some neat interplay over a free-kick with fellow new boy Eliran Atar. The Dane was making his first start in Ligue 1, and only took 7 minutes to get off the mark.

Lille made efforts to get themselves back into the game, however Salomon Kalou and Basa leading the line could find no real purchase in the game.

Christopher Glombard made it 2-0 on 67′, after some nice build-up play in the middle; the ball broke for Gaetan Courtet. He had the vision to lead Glombard on a curving run and it was left for the striker to finish emphatically.

Marko Basa finally gained a foothold for Lille in the 88th minute, finishing well after an assist from Ryan Mendes, however it was too little, too late and Reim held on for their first win of the campaign.


After a tough task against Monaco on opening night, Bordeaux will have looked forward to a good old fashioned derby game to kick-start their season. However, things looked bad for them in the 27th minute of the Garonne derby, when Marc Planus was shown a straight red card for hauling down Ben Basat.

The side didn’t let the loss of a man (for the second week running) get to them, and actually took the lead, somewhat against the run of play. Cheick Diabate, subject of various transfer gossip columns over the summer, finishing from a Henri Saivet pass. The Malian notched 10 goals in the last 9 games of the 2012/13 season and clearly looks in fine form yet again.

With his side taking the lead in the 43rd minute, Francis Gillot could have been forgiven for relaxing before the break; however Toulouse weren’t to be outdone. The Israeli forward, Ben Basat converting a rebound from a Cedric Carrasso stop.

Carrasso was called on more and more as the game wore on and Bordeaux’s ten men began chasing the game. Saves to deny Ben Yedder and Regattin were imperious, while the goalkeeper will have breathed a sigh of relief to see Pantxi Sirieix’s shot rocket back off the crossbar.

All in all, a point gained for Bordeaux, who will need to improve fast, while Toulouse will feel they should have taken advantage of their neighbours.


The Corsicans kept the home fans waiting for this one, but in the end their quality shone through against a Valenciennes side in need of some attacking bite.

With the suspension of striker Ilan, coach Frederic Hantz’s turned to Bruno, and it was the Lille forward who is currently on loan in Corsica, who finally took advantage of some poor defending from the tired legs of the Valenciennes defence. It took until the 76th minute; however the young Belgian showed plenty of class to engineer a goal from the flick by Sambou Yatabare.

Three minutes later the tie was wrapped up by Adama Ba, a summer signing of Hantz’s who is already proving popular with the local fans. The 19 year old, signed from Brest, had only just made it onto the field when he met a Yatabare cross with a fine header to wrap up the win.

Valenciennes will rue a few missed chances early in the 2nd half, but overall lacked firepower. They will look to fall back to their winning ways from week one and put this one behind them.


Nice hoped to be debuting a brand new stadium for this term – the Allianz Riviera ground built to replace the fading Stade du Ray. However, the new arena was not deemed ready to begin the campaign in and so the team stepped out in the old ground without a fan in sight. Punishment for last season’s transgressions against Lyon being served before the big move.

Both coaches rang the changes – Rennes handing a full debut to highly-rated Portuguese forward Nelson Oliveira, while Nice brought in 5 to make amends for their first round loss at Lyon. The biggest change for Claude Puel’s side coming in the form of last season’s top scorer, Dario Cvitanich, available again after serving a suspension.

And it was Cvitanich who made the first telling contribution to the game – retrieving a poorly defended cross from Eric Bautheac to notch his first of the season. The man who scored 19 last term will be only too happy to receive gifts like this one this year. He soon found himself with another effort on goal – although this time his attempt was saved well by Benoit Costil.

Another fine save from Costil came before the break, after a Christian Bruls effort, with Cvitanich once again involved – picking up the rebound but only finding the woodwork. The chances came and went, and Nice were made to rue these before the halftime whistle.

Oliveira, isolated and ineffective so far, found the ball dropping to him with sight of goal in stoppage time. The youngster took a touch on his knee and volleyed low into David Ospina’s goal, taking a touch of the post on the way in. It was a well taken goal for the former Benfica man, and Rennes coach Philippe Montanier will have high hopes of him coming up with more of the same this term.

It didn’t take Nice long to re-take the advantage however. Five minutes into the second half, a hopeful ball forward by Cvitanich was dallied over by defender Yassine Jebbour, and Jérémy Pied gave OGC Nice the all important lead. It was his first goal for the club, and a vital one.

Debutant Timothee Kolodziejczak then went close, hitting the woodwork again for Nice, before Rennes found themselves a man down – Vincent Pajot given his marching orders for a foul on the influential Valentin Eysseric.

Rennes have much work to do to build on last weekend’s good start, while Nice have a Europa League tie to look forward to this week which could have ramifications on their league form going forward.

Olympique Lyonnais recorded a second successive victory as they won 3-1 at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard on Friday to maintain their 100% start to the season.


Friday nights’ game saw an impressive Lyon team take another 3 points, and rarely look troubled for the second time this season.

Things started badly for OL, Milan Bisevac’s challenge sending Cédric Bakambu crashing to the floor, and the referee awarding a 4th minute penalty to the hosts. Ryad Boudebouz stepped up and dispatched the spot kick with aplomb, and gave Lyon coach Remi Garde some food for thought.

His team responded well though, and went close when a Yoann Gourcuff free-kick was almost converted into his own goal by Maxime Gonalons. Clement Grenier was in excellent form too, and only a solid Pouplin save could keep out his effort as OL turned the screw.

In the 35th minute Grenier turned provider, showing a burst of pace before finding Yassine Benzia in the area. His effort was too much for Pouplin and the sides were level before the break. Any hopes Sochaux held of regrouping at halftime faded soon after, however, when Grenier and Benzia again combined.

This time their excellent work produced a chance for Alexandre Lacazette, who took the chance to score his third of the campaign. The striker, unexpectedly the point of attack after the exit of Lisandro Lopez and the drama surrounding Bafétimbi Gomis, has seized his chance with both hands and looks likely to add more goals to his tally.

The half brought no relief for Sochaux, and the (yet again reborn) Gourcuff latched onto a loose ball and delivered yet another fine curling finish to make it 3-1 to the away side. The man formerly dubbed “The Next Zizou” is showing his early promise yet again, and while contract discussions are ongoing, it is clear he is vital to this team’s excellent start.

Lyon were untroubled, and held on for the win, sending Garde’s team into top spot after 2 rounds.


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Andrew Davidson

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