Matchday 26: Saturday round-up
Youssef Hadji (pictured) scored the winner in Nancy's 2-1 fightback triumph over Lens, while Lyon beat Metz 2-0 and Sochaux earned a vital away win over Strasbourg in their battle against relegation.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Fred 11, 68
There was no upset in the clash between top and bottom as Lyon ran out comfortable winners over Metz to extend their lead over Bordeaux to four points - for 24 hours at least.
The hero of the hour was Fred, handed a rare start and rewarding coach Alain Perrin's faith in him with a goal in either half (his first strikes in Ligue 1 this season) to ensure a straightforward evening for the home side.
Strike partner Karim Benzema set up the Brazil international for his first with on 11 minutes, when the young French striker crossed and Fred finished coolly with a sidefoot finish. Lyon took control for the rest of the half but couldn't capitalise on their dominance with a second goal and had to wait until a minute before the break for another good scoring opportunity, when Benzema raced through the Metz defence and hit a stunning shot that goalkeeper Christophe Marichez did well to punch away. Metz had a chance of their own, though - outstanding teenager Miralem Pjanic hit a vicious free-kick that Gregory Coupet saved at full stretch.
But half-way through the second-half Lyon made the points safe - and it was a typical Lyon goal, as Fred exchanged passes with Jeremy Toulalan and Mathieu Bodmer to prise a hole in the Metz defence and finished by lifting the ball over Marichez.
Lyon could have extended their advantage when Juninho came close with a trademark free-kick, but the hosts were content to run down the clock after a busy week of action. It was a job well done to put the pressure on Bordeaux before their Sunday night clash against Lille.
Berenguer 73, Hadji 76
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Two goals in a matter of minutes late in the game maintained Nancy's four point lead over fourth-place Le Mans at the Stade Marcel-Picot.
A fairly lifeless first half was finally illuminated just minutes before the break when a superb one-two between Kevin Monnet-Pacquet and Eric Carriere split the Nancy defence, setting up Abdou Kader Mangane to score the opening goal of the game for Jean-Pierre Papin's men. It was probably deserved, given that a Carriere cross had earlier been headed against the bar by Mangane.
But having been thrashed 4-0 by St Etienne last week, Nancy manager Pablo Corea would have been looking for a response from his players. In the second half he got it. With less than 20 minutes to go, Lens were actually looking the more likely to score, but two Nancy goals in the space of three minutes turned the game on its head. First Pascal Berenguer stooped to glance in a corner, then Moroccan forward Youssouf Hadji was inexplicably left unmarked in the box to smash the ball past the helpess Vedran Runje and give the home side a win they scarcely deserved.
Niculae 67, Chafni 70
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Two goals in three minutes midway through the second half maintained Auxerre's run of good recent form, with Jean Fernandez's side moving up to 12th after another excellent victory.
It was Nice that made the better start, with former Sunderland striker Lilian Laslandes missing two excellent chances to open the scoring. Playing in his 400th Ligue 1 game, the forward was substituted before half-time after sustaining an injury. He was not too badly missed, however, as just 17 seconds after the restart, Frederic Antonetti's side took the lead, with Bakari Kone lobbing the ball over Remy Riou.
Having established the lead, Nice appeared to be in control of the game, before three minutes of madness sealed their fate. Having got on the end of an inswinging free kick, Daniel Niculae seemed certain to score, but Hugo Lloris pulled off a great save to deny the Romanian. Sadly for the home side, the ball rebounded to the striker and he was able to head home the equaliser. Seconds later a cross from Kevin Lejeune was buried by the left foot of Kamel Chafni. Try as they might, Nice were unable to find a way back, and despite playing out the last few minutes with just 10 men after the dismissal of Gabriel Tamas, Auxerre held on for three priceless points.
Le Mans 2
Basa 3, Le Tallec 17
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Le Mans centre-half Marko Basa grabbed the opener on three minutes when Romaric's free-kick found the Serbia centre-half and he headed home at the far post. Valenciennes were stunned by the early setback and still in a state of shock when former Liverpool striker Le Tallec doubled the visitors' lead 14 minutes later. Again Valenciennes were caught out by an excellent delivery; this time Jean Calve provided the assist and Le Tallec met the cross perfectly at the far post.
Le Mans could have added a third on the half hour when Mathieu Coutadeur provided a moment of individual inspiration, beating two defenders before unleashing a shot that Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau tipped around the post. And the hosts reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time from a familiar source - Steve Savidan headed home his ninth league goal of the season to give the hosts a chance.
A scuffle broke out on the half-time whistle and each side had a man sent off - Uruguayan centre-half Williams Martinez for Valenciennes, Le Tallec for Le Mans. Valenciennes came out emboldened for the second-half but their waves of attacks were unable to break down Le Mans' well-organised defence as Rudi Garcia's visitors held on to win.
Briand 43, Leroy 64
Rennes won the Brittany derby to earn three precious points in their fight again relegation. A goal in either half was enough to Guy Lacombe's hosts a vital victory, only the second in his eight matches in charge since he took over from Pierre Dreossi in December.
It was a typically feisty affair, with lots of midfield challenges but few chances in the early stages of the game. The best opening in the first half-hour fell to Lorient's Yohan Hautcoeur when the midfielder met Ulrich Le Pen's cross but Rennes goalkeeper Patrice Luzi saved the volleyed shot well.
Mickael Pagis was lively for the home side but it was strike partner Jimmy Briand who made the breakthrough when he took advantage of a monumental mix-up in the Lorient defence. Visiting goalkeeper Fabien Audard and his centre-halves Michael Ciani and Sylvain Marchal got in each other's way as they attempted to deal with a long pass, and Briand sneaked in between to finish from close range.
Having taken the lead just before half-time Rennes looked far more confident after the restart but Briand missed a glorious opportunity to make the game safe when he rounded keeper Audard only to inexplicably fire wide. But it didn't matter - Jerome Leroy showed him how to do it when finding the net moments later, getting on the end of Pagis' cross in front of Lorient's passive defenders to skillfully slide the ball home and complete an important win.
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After last week's disappointment at the hands of bitter rivals Marseille, Paris-Saint-German looked like exacting revenge by beating OM's south-coast neighbours Monaco. But a late error from goalkeeper Mickael Landreau gifted the visitors a point at the Parc des Princes.
With both sides having passed up good opportunities to open the scoring, it was the home side that finally made the breakthrough, just moments before half time. PSG manager Paul Le Guen had kept faith with striker Amara Diane after last week's defeat and the Ivorian repaid his boss with a sixth goal of season, latching on to a quick free kick from Willamis Souza to give his side the lead.
Both sides had much to prove in the second half; PSG were desperately in need of points having started the day just three points above the relegation zone, while Monaco needed a response after last week's 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Laurent Blanc' high-flying Bordeaux. With the game seemingly heading the way of the home side, goalkeeper Landreau made an uncharacteristic error, dropping a free kick at the feet of Almiron who buried the ball from close range to earn the visitors a share of the spoils.
St Etienne 3
Dernis 19, 34, Gomis 24
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St Etienne built on last weekend's convincing 4-0 victory over Nancy and earned only their second away win of the season with a 3-1 triumph over Caen in the day's early kick-off.
Laurent Roussey's side were excellent value for the win, roaring into a three-goal lead before the break before Franck Dumas' hosts belatedly got into the game with a goal from Lilian Compan just after the hour mark.
Geoffrey Dernis, who's been in excellent form in recent weeks, grabbed the opening goal on 19 minutes. And what a goal it was - not for the first time this season the 27-year-old midfielder struck from long range when his 25-yard free-kick found the top corner of the net.
Five minutes later St Etienne doubled their lead through Bafetimbi Gomis. On the break the big striker burst into the Caen penalty area and thrashed the ball past home goalkeeper Vincent Plante for his 10th Ligue 1 goal of the season.
St Etienne were utterly dominant as Gomis headed against a post before Dernis notched his second and les Verts' third on 34 minutes - yet again it was a wonderful goal. Influential midfielder Pascal Feindouno dummied the ball to Dernis, who let fly again from well outside the area with his vicious left foot to leave Plante utterly beaten.
Having secured a commanding lead St Etienne eased off after the break and Caen earned a brief glimmer of hope when Compan finished Benjamin Nivet's raking pass. But it proved only a moment of respite as moments later Dernis came within inches of claiming his hat-trick, only to see his latest long-range effort, a free-kick, slam against the bar.
It was a stunning performance from St Etienne and enough for them to move above Caen on goal difference.
Isabey 13, Erding 35
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Sochaux earned a massive boost in their battle against relegation as they won a fiercely contested eastern derby with two first-half goals to see off Strasbourg.
The two sides were evenly matched throughout, even sharing an identical record coming into the game of two wins, two defeats and two draws in the last six. But it was the visitors who made the perfect start, taking the lead as early as the 13th minute after a superb piece of attacking play. A cross from Nicolas Maurice-Belay on the left was brilliantly collected by Mevlut Erding who laid the ball off for the advancing Isabey. The midfielder didn't need to be invited to strike and confidently dispatched the ball.
Having provided Isabey with the first, Turkish forward Erding got on the score sheet himself late in the first half, doubling Sochuax's lead with a cracking finish. Once again it was the devastating wing play of Maurice-Belay that proved decisive. Another majestic cross split the goalkeeper and centre-backs, allowing Erding to bury his seventh of the season and send Sochaux level on points with 18th-placed Toulouse.