Marseille crumble, Paris draw
In the race for second place behind autumn champions Lyon, Marseille and Paris both failed to keep the pace, respectively losing 3-0 to Nancy and drawing 2-2 at home to Valenciennes on Sunday night.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Olympique de Marseille / AS Nancy Lorraine : 0 - 3
Marseille lived out a nightmare at home to a resurgent Nancy, losing 3-0 in a shaky display that highlighted the problems their once-powerful attack is currently experiencing in the absence of injured Senegal striker Mamadou Niang.
In a performance that will doubtless draw the ire of infamously exacting Belgian coach Eric Gerets, Marseille started well, dominating possession in the opening stages, but failed to threaten, their attacks lacking speed, precision and a focal point.
Somewhat against the run of play, and with their first clear-cut chance, Nancy went ahead in the 34th minute when Jonathan Brison fired a dangerous angled shot along the ground past Steve Mandanda and into the feet of Moroccan international Youssouf Hadji, whose lucky touch cannoned into the net off the post.
A shocked Marseille tried to bounce back but the impressive Hadji, Nancy's leading scorer with five goals this season, was at it again five minutes later. Brison put the Moroccan clean through and the Marseille defence, claiming off-side, failed to play the whistle and stalled as Hadji, alone in front of Mandanda, brought Brison's pass down and fired home. While Nancy's Hélder had been in an off-side position, he was adjudged not t have interfered with play and referee Thierry Auriac let the goal stand.
Nancy went further ahead in the 56th minute thanks to another defensive error from the home side. Algerian international midfielder Karim Ziani lost the ball under pressure from Brison, who slotted a pass through two defenders to the surging Issiar Dia, who raced into the area to beat Mandanda with deft feint and a clinical right-foot shot.
Marseille managed to create a few chances in the second half but their efforts were in vain and Nancy finished the match deserved 3-0 winners. Marseille's attacking woes will doubtless cause a stir and add some urgency to their search for another striker during the winter transfer window.
The loss means Marseille drop from second spot, where they have sat for the last two weeks, to fifth, suffering a heavy blow in their quest to keep pace with leaders Lyon as well as the chasing pack of Rennes, Paris and Bordeaux. Nancy climb two places to 11th.
Paris Saint-Germain / Valenciennes FC : 2 - 2
Paris will be regretting a host of spurned scoring chances in the second half after they drew 2-2 with Valenciennes at the Parc des Princes. Paris went ahead in the 26th minute through giant goal machine Guillaume Hoarau who, perfectly chested down Brazilian Marcos Ceara's pinpoint cross in the middle of the box. Surrounded by Valenciennes defenders, PSG's top scorer unleashed an incredible volley that cannoned into the back of the net for his 11th of the season.
Despite being mired in the relegation zone, Valenciennes are no easybeats and took the game to Paris, but Le Guen's first-choice line-up has really found its rhythm this season and, well-organised and solid defensively, limited Valenciennes to very few chances in the first half.
One minute into the second half however, with their first clear-cut scoring chance, Valenciennes drew level through Rudy Mater. Rising to head clear a ball down the right, Sylvain Armand mistimed his move and ended up nodding down into the path of Mater, who raced into the edge of the area before blasting a dippng ball underneath Mickaël Landreau and into the net to draw the scores even.
Paris reacted strongly and took control of the midfield, putting together some beautiful sequences of play linking their midfield with the lethal strike partnership of Ludovic Giuly and Hoarau. The forward pairing had six or seven clear-cut chances between them but couldn't find the final ball to make the break.
Paris's Benin international midfield maestro Stéphane Sessegnon had an enormous match, posing problems incessantly for the Valenciennes defence, and his efforts bore fruit in the 71st minute when Nicolas Penneteau in the VA goal could only parry his stinging shot from the edge of the area. Jérôme Rothen was on hand however and slotted home to re-take the lead for Paris with his second goal of the season.
Paris almost went further ahead just minutes later when Sessegnon fired a powerful looping shot from the edge of the area that cannoned off the crossbar and straight down before bouncing clear. Referee Bertrand Layec waved play on but Peguy Luyindula was too late to pounce on the rebound.
Valenciennes made Paris pay for their mistakes 12 minutes later when the excellent Mater, after a jinking run down the left, crossed for Grégory Pujol, whose neat back-heeled flick-on sailed over Landreau and onto the bar, dropping for the arriving Ivory Coast international Siaka Tiéné, who blasted home from close range to level the scores and salvage a point for the struggling Ligue 1 club.
The draw sees Paris provisionally climb one place to third ahead of Bordeaux's clash in Monaco. While the point won in the capital will do Antoine Kombouaré's Valenciennes the world of good in terms of confidence, they remain in 18th place on 15 points, four points shy of Saint-Etienne who sit just above the relegation zone.