Matchday 1: Saturday round-up

Ligue 1 Conforama


THERE was a sensational start to the new season at Rennes, where title contenders Marseille were held to a 4-4 draw after leading 3-1. Ligue 1 new boys Grenoble hit back late to record a 2-1 victory at Sochaux, while Bordeaux came from 1-0 down to beat Caen 2-1. Read about all a fabulous first night of action.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

   Rennes 4-4 Marseille

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With three goals in the first 15 minutes and two more in second-half injury time, fans at the Stade de le Route de Lorient were treated to one of the most remarkable games French supporters are likely to see all season as Rennes and Marseille fought out a pulsating 4-4 draw.

With Bakari Kone and Hatem Ben Arfa joining Mamadou Niang and Djibril Cisse in an attacking quartet, the match was supposed to signal the beginning of L'OM's title charge. But despite this mouthwatering array of attacking talent, it was the newly formed centre-back pairing of Elamin Erbate and Vitorino Hilton that had an immediate impact on proceedings, dithering as Olivier Thomert nipped in to convert a perfect Mickael Pagis cross with the season just seven minutes old.

But within moments fans were treated to a glimpse of the forward power that has prompted many observers to tip Marseille for the title. Two goals from two new boys in as many minutes - the first a razor-sharp strike from Kone, the second a measured finish from Ben Arfa - turned the game on its head. And by the half-hour mark a thrashing looked on the cards, as Niang took advantage of some poor defensive play - albeit from an apparently offside position - to score a third.

But far from rolling over, Rennes hit straight back after the break. Again it was Thomert, and yet again it was a defensive error, this time from goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, whose mishit clearance fell straight to the midfielder, who made no mistake just two metres from goal. Seconds later Mandanda was at it again, but this time he managed to deny Rod Fanni an equaliser.

With the game heading towards a Marseille win, gutsy Rennes piled on the pressure and when a mix-up between Mandanda and Erbate resulted in a last-minute own goal, 3-3 looked like the final scoreline. But just seconds later, Marseille regained the lead through substitute Elliot Grandin, only for Bruno Cheyrou to equalise again with virtually the last touch of an unforgettable game.

  Sochaux 1-2 Grenoble

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Promoted Grenoble mounted a stunning late comeback to grab all three points with a thrilling 2-1 win at Sochaux.

The Ligue 1 new boys - making their first top-flight appearance in 45 years - found themselves 1-0 down with 13 minutes to go but refused to buckle and scored twice in the last five minutes to snatch victory in remarkable fashion.

First substitute Nassim Akrour headed home to make the score 1-1 three minutes from time - but rather than settling for a point Grenoble pushed on and netted a winner. Daniel Moreira, on loan from Rennes, pounced on a loose ball in the area and dribbled round goalkeeper Teddy Richert to score his first Ligue 1 goal in more than two seasons.

Sochaux had looked to have claimed all three points when Mevlut Erding put them ahead on 77 minutes. The Turkey international striker headed home unstoppably from a Valter Birsa. But Sochaux could do nothing about Grenoble's fighting spirit - and ended up on the wrong end of Ligue 1's biggest shock result of the night.

 Bordeaux 2-1 Caen

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Fernando Cavenaghi came off the bench as Bordeaux mounted a second-half comeback to beat Caen 2-1.

The Argentina international - les Girondins' top scorer last season with 15 goals from 23 games - struck the winner 11 minutes from time. Yoann Gourcuff had equalised with a sublime goal on 54 minutes, picking up a pass from Brazilian team-mate Wendel before firing an unstoppable shot high into the net.

The win was no less than Bordeaux deserved, however, for their excellent performance after the break. Caen had taken the lead against the run of play in the 10th minute when midfielder Benjamin Nivet finished a rapid counter-attack.

The visitors did well to hold out until half-time but the hosts' superior quality told in the end, giving Laurent Blanc's side a winning start.

 Le Havre 1-0 Nice

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Le Havre marked their return to the top-flight after a five-year absence with an excellent win over Nice, ironically the last side they faced in Ligue 1 before their relegation in May 2003.

The visitors were clearly feeling the loss of a number of key players, including Hugo Lloris, Ederson and Baky Kone, and in a game of few clear-cut chances, a goalless draw seemed the most likely outcome as neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled.

But with under 20 minutes to go, a goal finally arrived, much to the delight of the home crowd at the Stade Jules Deschaseaux. There was a touch of good fortune about it, however - after a neat turn on the edge of the box, Jean-Michel Lesage's shot was deflected, totally wrongfooting Lionel Letizi.

 Monaco 1-0 PSG

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Monaco made a winning start against PSG's expensively-assembled team with a late goal.

Frederic Nimani made the vital breakthrough, heading home a Camel Meriem cross 11 minutes from time. The striker, who spent last season on loan at Lorient and Ligue 2 side Sedan, had scored only one Ligue 1 goal before.

Nimani was one of several youngsters handed a start by home coach Ricardo, with midfielder Cedric Mongongu and striker Juan Pablo also named in his line-up. PSG gave debuts to Claude Makelele, Ludovic Giuly and Guillaume Hoarau, last season's 28-goal Ligue 2 top scorer. The big man up front had few chances to impress, however.

Neither side impressed over 90 minutes, although PSG's right-back Ceara will regret a fantastic chance to score. Put clean though by Giuly in the first-half, the Brazilian could only shoot wide, a miss that eventually cost his team dearly.

 Auxerre 2-1 Nantes

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Auxerre got their 2008-09 campaign off to a winning start with a hard-fought victory against newly promoted Nantes thanks to the quick reactions of striker Julien Quercia, who netted the winner.

The home side dominated proceedings but were unable to translate possession into chances until just after the half-hour mark when a superb cross from Benoit Pedretti found Ireneusz Jelen. The Poland international looked certain to score but Nantes goalkeeper Tony Heurtebis somehow pawed the ball round the post for a corner. It was a brief reprieve, and from the quickly taken corner Pedretti crossed, Jelen headed goalwards and this time Heurtebis could do nothing to stop it.

With the match slipping away, Nantes pushed forward and appeared to have got a reward for their efforts when David de Freitas rifled in a shot from outside the box to equalise with 20 minutes to go. But just moments later, all their hard work was undone when Heurtebis spilled a cross and Quercia gleefully tucked away the winner.

 Valenciennes 1-0 St Etienne

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St Etienne, rated by many as outside contenders for the title, suffered a surprise opening-day defeat as a first-half penalty was enough for Valenciennes to earn a 1-0 win at Stade Nungesser.

Gael Danic, a summer signing from Troyes, marked his debut with the winning strike, converting from the spot after visiting goalkeeper Jody Viviani was adjudged to have brought down Johan Audel in the box.

There was little between the two sides, but St Etienne didn't really push forward enough to deserve a point. Star striker Bafetimbi Gomis was surprisingly left on the bench, although he came on after 51 minutes and nearly snatched a spectacular equaliser two minutes from time when his thunderous shot come back off the post.

  Le Mans 0-1 Lorient

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Lorient earned a precious and well-deserved 1-0 win over a depleted Le Mans at Stade Leon-Bollee.

The visitors, who handed a debut to France U21 striker Kevin Gameiro, were much the better side and grabbed the vital goal from the penalty spot in the 58th minute. Gameiro was hauled down by Ibrahima Camara and Lorient right-back Christophe Jallet made no mistake from the spot.

Lorient controlled the game against a Le Mans side who, shorn of goalkeeper Yohann Pele (injury) and Ivory Coast striker Gervinho (Olympic duty), looked short on quality. Substitute Anthony Le Tallec missed the best chance to equalise when, clean through, he shot straight at visiting goalkeeper Fabien Audard.

After seeing six first-teamers leave the club over the summer, new Le Mans coach Yves Bertucci appears to have his work cut out.

  Nancy 0-0 Lille 

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On a day packed with goalmouth incident, Nancy and Lille played out the only goalless draw in Ligue 1.

Having eventually finished fourth last year after a hugely successful campaign, Nancy might have hoped for better against a Lille side now under the control of ex-Le Mans coach Rudy Garcia. Having been deprived the services of influential midfielder Ludovic Obraniak, Lille turned to Michel Bastos, and the Brazilian didn't disappoint, forcing excellent saves from Bracigliano in the Nancy goal.

The home side's best chance came on the hour mark as Youssouf Hadji's superb effort crashed back off the bar, and it is a reflection of the match that the biggest talking point of the second half was the expulsion of Lille defender Adil Rami for a late tackle at the end of the match.

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