Memphis Depay OL

Round 18 review: OL pull clear, Poch's PSG take second despite draw

Publish on 07/01/2021 at 10:00 - S. WILLIS


Leaders Olympique Lyonnais asserted their title credentials with a Memphis Depay-powered 3-2 win over Lens, while PSG's 1-1 draw with ASSE in Mauricio Pochettino's first match in charge was enough to take them back to second place.

Autumn champions Olympique Lyonnais showed no signs of slowing down as they took on Lens in Round 18, captain Memphis Depay hitting a brace to take his season tally to ten. Despite a fight-back from Lens, OL held out for the 3-2 win that took them three points clear stop the Ligue 1 Uber Eats standings.

Garcia: 'We did a great job'

"We had everything to lose. We were in top spot, playing at home and everyone was picking us to win. But I feared this evening, it could easily have been a banana skin for us. We saw in the second half that it was difficult for the players to be 100%. They travelled over the break, and there's the time difference," explained coach Rudi Garcia, whose side have won ten in an undefeated run of 15 matches. "But here we did a great job in terms of the rankings because the other teams dropped points - probably also due physical issues. We continued our good run and I congratulate the players for that."

Poch: 'Improve and develop'

Meanwhile Mauricio Pochettino was making his debut in the Paris Saint-Germain dugout as Saint-Etienne came calling and it was no walk in the park for the capital club, who went behind when Romain Hamouma pounced on an error from Idrissa Gueye. However, Moise Kean was on hand to level it up with a shot-on-the-turn nutmeg of Jessy Moulin and PSG climbed from third to second - on goal difference - with the 1-1 draw.

"I am a little disappointed because we are PSG and we want to win. But after only three days of training and therefore little time to prepare, we have obviously a lot of things to improve and develop. It's not the desired result, but Saint-Etienne deserves this point," said the Argentine, who lined his Neymar-less side up in a 4-3-3 with Marco Verratti in an advanced midfield role. "I'm rather happy with the players, who tried a lot and showed a great state of mind, a good attitude and made an effort. Considering the injuries, it was the most balanced team to field. I wanted Marco Verratti to organise the game, being free all over the pitch to connect well with the team."
Galtier: 'Should have done much better'

That a single point was enough to take the capital club second came down to LOSC's falling to a first home defeat of the season 2-1 to Angers. Defender Romain Thomas was the unlikely source of both goals for SCO, and while substitute Burak Yilmaz pulled one back late in the piece, it wasn't enough to prolong Les Dogues impressive run at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

"It took us far too long to get into this match. For 30-35 minutes, I saw my team struggle in challenges and with their technical qualities. We were beaten in all areas, especially in terms of will and determination. Angers deserves its victory but we were absent," lamented LOSC boss Christophe Galtier, whose side are seen by many as credible title challengers this season. "Losing matches can happen, but by being so absent, there are questions. This defeat doesn't worry me, I don't want to sound the alarm. But it does make you think. We should have done much better."

OM, Monaco chasing hard

The false steps from PSG and LOSC will bring that much more pressure considering that the chasing pack aren't all that far off the top three. Although Rennes saw their four-match winning streak halted with a 0-0 away to Raymond Domenech's Nantes, Marseille - still with two matches in hand - are just five points shy of LOSC after a 3-1 beating of Montpellier.

With Florian Thauvin setting up Nemanja Radonjic before substitute Dimitri Payet hit a superb solo effort and fellow bench-warmer Valère Germain made it three goals from three shots this season, OM started the New Year with a bang, beating Montpelier 3-1.

A point behind OM, Niko Kovac's Monaco also showed they are ready to give their all in the second half of the season, Kevin Volland, Sofiane Diop and a fit-again Aleksandr Golovin among the scorers in a crazy 5-2 win over FC Lorient.

Strasbourg make a statement

Brest edged into the top half of the table with a 2-0 beating of a Nice side for whom stopper William Saliba - signed on loan from Arsenal this week - was making his debut.

While Metz and Bordeaux played out a 0-0 draw that keeps them in 11th and 12th respectively, Strasbourg made a huge statement on the scoreboard - and in terms of their intentions of beating the drop - by hammering bottom club Nîmes 5-0. It could even have been 6-0 had Baptiste Reynet not heroically saved Ludovic Ajorque's penalty. The Alsace Club climb to 16th, a point above Nantes and one shy of Reims, who drew 0-0 with fellow strugglers Dijon.

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