Lille keeps its hands on the top spot
On Sunday night, when they were about to enter the field (a terrible one, by the way), Lille players knew exactly what they had to do. With Rennes, Lyon and Marseille victorious, they had to win in order to remain out of shooting distance. Well, that’s what they did. The away side, Toulouse, did not even manage to force local keeper Mickaël Landreau to a single save. The former French international played his 500th league game on Sunday night, an impressive achievement for a player who’s just turned 30. Thanks to a first goal scored by Ivory Coast international Gervinho, and a late one added by local super-sub Tulio de Melo, Rudy Garcia’s men were able to notch 3 more points, and remain unbeaten for the 13th game in a row this season. Without a few great saves by their keeper Mathieu Valverde (who had to be replaced during the game because of an injury), the visiting side could have gone home with a couple of extra goals in their bags… The only negative element of the night for LOSC is the knee injury of their French international Adil Rami, which is very likely to keep the central defender out of the picth for a couple of weeks.
Lyon gets its revenge
This was the ‘paroxysm’ of Lyon’s gloomy days. Back in September, regional archrivals St Etienne came back from Stade de Gerland with a 1-0 victory, their first victory in a Rhône derby for years… A game that could have led to Claude Puel’s layoff. But Puel is still OL’s manager, and OL is way better now. Of course, this is not what the first 20 minutes of the game showed. St Etienne, pushed by a noisy home crowd at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard (nicknamed ‘The Caldron’ due to its hot atmosphere), completely dominated the beginning of the game and scored first thanks to their American international Carlos Bocanegra, on a wonderful free kick delivered by Payet. But Lyon managed to react, and on a corner shot by Gourcuff and headed away by a St Etienne defender, former local glory Bafétimbi Gomis volleyed the ball and buried it into the back of the net to make it 1-1. A few minutes later, another Gourcuff corner was deflected by Bayal Sall into his own goal, 2-1. A couple of Lloris saves allowed the visitors to hold their lead until halftime. St Etienne had a few chances to equalize, but Lyon scored a third goal thanks to Bastos, and finally made it 4-1 when Jimmy Briand took advantage of a cross by Delgado to bury the ball into the empty net, turning this victory into St Etienne’s heaviest home defeat against OL.
OM back in the mix
It’s always tough to play at Stade Bonal. Sochaux, the local team, is the best home team in the league. Its talented youth led by Marvin Martin, Kévin Anin & co. showed it when it tore apart Rennes, L1s best defense at that time, 5 goals to 1 a couple of weeks ago. Everybody thought the locals would grab 3 more points against one of Ligue 1’s powerhouses when Modibo Maiga beat Steve Mandanda on a diving header to make it 1-0 a few minutes before halftime. But French international André-Pierre Gignac managed to equalize on a beautiful long-range, curved strike a few seconds after the visitors’s goal. The same Gignac found the net for the fifth time in just 5 games during the second half when he volleyed a cross by Loic Rémy to beat Teddy Richert. Two typical Gignac goals that indicate he might be on his way back to his true level.
Rennes notches 3 points, Paris held scoreless at home
In the other games of the weekend, Rennes beat Nice 2-0 at home to climb back to the league’s second spot. Paris posted a disappointing performance against a struggling Lens side, with a scoreless draw. Monaco and its winter recruits got a bit of fresh air with a home victory against Lorient (3-1). Valenciennes confirmed it is a team you don’t want to play in an away game with a 2-0 win against Brest. Montpellier and Arles earned a point each in a 0-0 tie, while Nancy beat Auxerre 3-1 and showed that the Burgundy team will have to fight hard to avoid relegation. Finally, a weak Bordeaux team was beaten at home 2-1 by Caen.