Matchday 4 - Saturday Review
Lyon suffer their second defeat of the season (away at lorient) as Auxerre and Strasbourg record victories. Read all about another exciting weekend of French football in our weekly Saturday review...
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Vahirua 14, 65
Lyon fell to their second defeat in a week as les Merlus ripped up the form book to beat the champions 2-1 in an exciting encounter. Having never beaten Lyon at home in the top-flight before, Lorient produced a stunning performance which, helped by two goals from Marama Vahirua, hauled them up to joint-top of Ligue 1.
The home side started the game above Lyon in the table, their mid-week win over PSG having elevated them to fourth. If that wasn't surprising enough, the OL faithful received an even bigger shock when Lorient had the temerity to take the lead. A cross from Hamed Namouchi in the 14th minute was dealt with by Fabio Grosso but the Italian's headed clearance fell to Marama Vahirua who subsequently dispatched a spectacular volley past Rémy Vercoutre for 1-0.
Marama Vahirua celebrates his fourth goal in four days
Visibly affected, Lyon strode forward in search of an equaliser but were let down from some slack finishing before Karim Benzema found the net with a sumptuous lob following a slick one-two with Milan Baros.
The six-time Ligue 1 champions came out after half-time with the bit between their teeth. Fifteen minutes in and Benzema came close to putting his team ahead with a glancing header. Having survived a bout of Lyon pressure, Lorient then sensed their chance and once more shocked the home crowd with another goal from Vahirua. Meeting a cross from Nicolas Marin, the Tahitian beat his marker and slotted past Vercoutre with ease.
Amazingly, Lorient nearly added to their two goals with three minutes left, Rafik Saifi losing out on a one-on-one with the Lyon 'keeper. By this time however, the damage had been done with the home side hanging on to complete a famous victory and send them to top of table, second only to Le Mans by virtue of the alphabet. For OL, a difficult opening to 2007/08 continues
Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne shared the points in a goalless encounter on Saturday evening, neither team managing to put mid-week defeats behind them.
Saint-Etienne had the lion's share of possession, and with it chances, in the first-half. With just one win under their belt so far this season - at home to Valenciennes on Matchday 2 - les Verts knew that another victory at the imposing Stade Geoffroy Guichard could send an important message to the rest of the league.
The best chance of the first period fell to the Brazilian Araujo Ilan, the striker screwing an effort wide when presented with the ball by the youngster Dimitri Payet. A speculative overhead kick from the South American was then saved easily by Matthieu Valverde who did well once more to palm away a Pascal Feindouno volley on the stroke of half-time. Bordeaux's only notable opportunity of the first period fell to Wendel who saw a free-kick of his saved by Jérémie Janot with colleagues Jussie and Fernando making a hash of the rebound.
Les Girondins started the second-half better than they had the first and David Bellion forced Janot into a save two minutes in. A stalemate though looked more and more likely as the game progressed. Neither side were willing to commit too many men forward and the home side's sole concrete chance came when the referee waved away shouts for a penalty following a collision between Matthieu Chalmé and Blaise Matuidi in the Bordeaux box.
The result will please both teams though, a 0-0 draw allowing the pair to consolidate their position in the top half of the table.
Le Mans 1
Le Mans stayed on top of the table after clawing their way back into this game with a spirited second-half performance to earn a share of the points.
The hosts began as if suffering from stage fright, having found themselves in the unusual position of being Ligue 1 leaders going into Matchday 4, but Rudi Garcia clearly found the right words at half-time because his players produced a far more coherent and combative performance after the break.
But it was Lille who dominated early on, as they continued the good form they had shown in drawing 1-1 against Sochaux in midweek. Their play was bright and brisk for the opening 20 minutes and they duly got their rewards when Nicolas Fauvergue headed home for his first goal of the season, powerfully meeting Ludovic Obraniak's cross.
The turning point for Le Mans was the introduction of lively Gervinho at half-time. The 20-year-old Ivorian, signed from Belgian club Beveren over the summer, looked promising as a substitute against Metz in Le Mans' opening win of the season and against Bordeaux in their 2-1 midweek victory, and he panicked the Lille defence with his dribbles and feints.
But the equaliser was a result of a piece of individual magic from Grafite, Le Mans' top scorer last season. Latching on to a long pass in the penalty area, the Brazilian striker somehow managed to powerfully backheel the ball into the net, leaving Lille's defenders and goalkeeper Tony Sylva stunned.
Once on level terms Le Mans dominated, with Grafite and Gervinho both wasting opportunities to secure the points. The worst miss of all came from Guillaume Louviot, who headed wide with the goal at his mercy following a Romaric corner just before the end.
Lille will be probably pleased to have got away with a point following Le Mans' second-half onslaught, while the hosts will know that with Grafite and Gervinho in this kind of form they can genuinely hope to challenge for a top-eight spot this season.
Paris Saint-Germain picked up their first point of the season after a goalless draw with Metz at the Stade Saint-Symphorien. The home side, meanwhile, remain rooted to the bottom of Ligue 1.
After a average first-half from both sides, it was Paul Le Guen's PSG who gave the first statement of intent after the interval. A quick break from Peguy Luyindula fed Jerome Rothen on the left, and the France international's cross was cleanly volleyed goalwards by 20-year-old striker Loris Arnaud. It looked like a decent effort but the ball flew inches wide of the left-hand post with Marichez struggling.
But having survived, it was Metz who really should have gone on to open the scoring when a swift counter-attack from Momar N'Diaye gave the home side a two-against-one situation as he bore down on the PSG goal. Sadly the Senegalese forward failed to find the killer ball, overhitting the pass that would have played in Aquirre and the best chance of the game was squandered.
That scare at one end prompted Le Guen to ring the changes at the other: with more than half-an-hour to go he brought on Gallardo and Pauleta - the scorer of PSG's only goal of the season - for Luyindula and Rothen in the hope of finding some sort of attacking threat. It almost paid dividends for the former Lyon and Rangers coach as Pauleta headed a corner over the bar with 10 minutes to go. Julien Francois had an even better chance for Metz late on, but his header went the same way as Pauleta's, along with any hope of stealing all three points.
Toifilou Maoulida went from zero to hero as he struck Auxerre's first goal of the season and secured their first victory, just a week after he missed two penalties in their 2-0 defeat to Bordeaux.
The former Marseille striker - who was dropped from the squad for Auxerre's 3-0 thrashing at Strasbourg in midweek because of disobeying team orders by taking that second spot-kick against les Girondins - redeemed himself with a neat 34th-minute finish that finally lifted Auxerre from the foot of the table.
Once ahead, Auxerre were able to comfortably hold on for most of the game, although a negative Caen side finally roused themselves in the later stages and came close to scoring an equaliser.
The architect of the winning goal was Kevin Lejeune, whose magnificent work down the left wing created the opening. The 22-year-old winger was one of Auxerre's main threats throughout the game and may have earned himself a regular place in the side.
It was not surprising that Auxerre started like a team who had lost three straight games. Their players were low on confidence and Maoulida missed a one-on-one with goalkeeper Vincent Plante before playmaker Thomas Kahlenberg also wasted a good opportunity because of nerves.
Once Maoulida had put the hosts ahead they gradually grew stronger and took control of the match after the break. Lejeune cause havoc down the left wing as Maoulida and Auxerre substitute Daniel Niculae both came close to doubling their advantage.
Caen were slow to commit men forward and Tunisia international Jemaa missed their best chance when his header left Auxerre goalkeeper Remy Riou helpless but the ball struck the post with 11 minutes to go.
The result moves Auxerre out of the bottom three as they join Caen on three points but les Caennais have played a game fewer.
Mouloungui 21, Fanchone 54, Gameiro 73
Toulouse completed a miserable week with a 3-1 defeat at home to Strasbourg, four days after a 1-0 loss to Liverpool in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. By contrast, Strasbourg collected their sixth point in as many days by scoring three for the second time in a week and will be celebrating a place in the top five of Ligue 1.
The newly promoted team from Ligue 2 started well and were ahead after 21 minutes, Eric Mouloungui volleying home at the second post following some excellent teamwork on the right. Fifteen minutes later Toulouse managed to grab an equaliser through the youngster André-Pierre Gignac before missing an excellent chance to go 2-1 up, Achille Emana slicing wide.
Elie Baup's team were left kicking themselves for the missed opportunity as ten minutes in to the second-half, their Alsatian opponents took the lead. This time goalscorer turned provider as Mouloungui fed James Fanchone who shot home past Nicolas Douchez. Although the home side came alive, the effort lasted only a short while as the visitors made certain of the win soon after with a smart finish from Kevin Gameiro, Mouloungui again providing the pass.
For Toulouse, an anxious week follows with a visit to Nice next Saturday before a trip to Liverpool where they must try to overturn a 1-0 deficit should they want to reach the group stage so the UEFA Champions League. For tonight's opponents, the disappointment of an opening day 0-0 draw with Marseille followed by a defeat by Nice has been replaced with renewed confidence.