Ligue 1 Matchday 21 Wrap-Up: Lille and Paris shine, Lyon and Rennes sink

by Etienne Michon

Lille: can they do it?

The last game of the weekend, played on Sunday night on a half-frozen pitch at Stadium Nord, was probably the most important one. Lille faced Lens in a Derby du Nord which featured the Ligue 1 leader on one side, and a team struggling to avoid relegation on the other side. The game was physically intense, but technically poor. The locals kept possession of the ball for most of the game (67% of possession) thanks to their technical quality and their talented midfield, but failed to convert this domination into real chances (two shots on target for the entire game). Lens’ physical impact and defensive system prevented Ligue 1’s best attack from being dangerous, controlling Sow, Hazard and Gervinho. Things changed at the 58th minute, when Rudy Garcia chose to bring in Polish international midfielder Ludovic Obraniak, and Brazilian target striker Tulio de Melo on the field. The latter allowed Lille to build its attacks around him, capitalizing on his ability to hold the ball and create space for his teammates. Just ten minutes after these two players came in, Obraniak crossed the ball for de Melo, whose deflection caught Vedran Runje off guard and gave Lille 3 more points. Garcia’s coaching abilities, combined to the depth of his squad, make Lille a more and more serious option for the Ligue 1 title as time goes by…

Lille leads and Paris follows…

You never know what to expect from an away game at Arles-Avignon. First of all, you don’t know which players they are going to field, as they bring in new names basically every week. Moreover, you don’t know if your game’s going to end up in a 3-0 victory (Marseille), or if you’re going to have to battle to salvage a point (Olympique Lyonnais). Without an injured Guillaume Hoarau, Paris did not win 3 or 4-0, but will be perfectly happy with the 3 points they brought back from Parc des Sports d’Avignon. Mevlut Erding, the Turkish international striker, scored a nice brace to allow its team to notch its tenth win of the season. Despite a wonderful goal by N’Diaye, Arles-Avignon lost for the fifteenth time and remains stuck at the bottom of the Ligue 1 rankings with just 8 points.

Rennes explodes at Sochaux

Rennes used to be praised for the quality of its defense. Nicolas Douchez, the team’s goalkeeper, was the leader of a backline which had given up only 12 goals in 20 games. This was before the Sochaux game. The locals, led by wonderkids Marvin Martin, Kévin Anin and Riyad Boudebouz, tore the Rennes defense apart, helped by strikers Brown Ideye (one goal) and Modibo Maïga (2 goals), and ended up with a 5-1 victory. Rennes even had to finish the game with 9 men as Nicolas Douchez was sent off and Kader Mangane got injured. With no substitution left, Rennes coach Antonetti had no choice but to witness his Norwegian midfielder Alexander Tettey take the gloves and play as a keeper for the rest of the game. Sochaux’s attacking style is always a pleasure to watch, and its attacking midfielder Marvin Martin is Ligue 1’s leader in terms of assists (11 so far). The only player to have done better in major European football leagues is… Lionel Messi.

Lyon looks like its old self again

Lyon conceded its first Ligue 1 defeat in 13 games on Saturday night at Valenciennes. The most worrying element is that Claude Puel’s side looked like the desperate team from last summer for most of the game. With Lisandro Lopez on the bench and youngster Jérémy Pied starting, Lyon dominated the first part of the game but failed to get any serious chance. On the other side, Valenciennes’ counter-attacks kept threatening Hugo Lloris and his defence. OL finally gave up a goal at the very beginning of the second half, as Jérémy Toulalan committed a foul on Gael Danic in the box. Milan Bisevac scored the penalty kick to give Valenciennes the lead. A few minutes later, a Sanchez pass found an unmarked Pujol in front of the goal to make it 2-0. Puel chose to bring Gourcuff (after another disappointing performance) out for Lisandro. OL finally started to get chances and Michel Bastos managed to score at the 71st minute. Lyon kept pushing, but the local goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau posted a couple of stellar saves to preserve its team’s lead and allow Valenciennes to notch its 7th win of the season.

Bordeaux, Montpellier, St-Etienne get 3 points

In the other games of the weekend, two beautiful goals by French international Kévin Gameiro allowed Lorient to beat a Brest side which keeps falling. Montpellier came back from Nancy with a 2-1 victory, and St Etienne won at home against Toulouse thanks to a right-footed brace by its young left-footed midfielder Bakary Sako. In a game between two teams that are very likely to battle to avoid relegation, Caen beat Auxerre 2-0. Finally, Bordeaux gave Jean Tigana some fresh air with a 2-0 victory at home against Nice.

Author Info

Etienne Michon

Etienne Michon

Biz. student from Lyon, France. I'm a French and US soccer fan, and an Olympique Lyonnais season ticket holder. Apart from Ligue 1, I follow the EPL, la Liga and the MLS. I'm also a Houston Dynamo, Atlético Madrid and Liverpool supporter. You can also listen to my Ligue 1 analyses on France 24's sports podcast. Follow me on Twitter @E_ten

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