Metz hold Lille to goalless draw
By D. Crossan
Ligue 2 champions Metz earned a hard-fought point at Lille as they frustrated last season's third-placed finishers in a 0-0 draw at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
LOSC Lille 0 - 0 FC Metz
Albert Cartier came to northern France with a game-plan which his players executed to perfection as Metz made their top-flight return after six seasons out of the elite. Johann Carrasso, younger brother of Bordeaux's Cédric, made two outstanding first-half saves to keep Simon Kjaer and Divock Origi at bay and Lille ran out of ideas in the second half as Metz coped with losing their captain Sylvain Marchal to injury with half-an-hour to play.
Both clubs were without their top scorer from last season with Metz hotshot Diafra Sakho seemingly bound for West Ham United of the Premier League and Salomon Kalou left out of the Lille matchday squad.
Carrasso on fire
Divock Origi led the Lille line and it became apparent from early in the piece that the home side's biggest threat would come from dead-ball situations. In the tenth minute Carrasso, who worked with Girard at Montpellier, showed his reflexes to deny Kjaer's header from a Florent Balmont free-kick.
Metz had kept 21 clean sheets in their promotion season thanks in large part to Carrasso and a settled back four. There were some nervous moments for the visitors, notably when Ryan Mendes fired into the side-netting from close range after another set-piece.
The closest Lille came was from a towering Origi leap to greet a Sébastien Corchia free-kick from the right. Carrasso flung himself full length to his left to save and left-back Gaëtan Bussmann turned the ball behind as Mendes threatened to pounce. Weight of defensive numbers then got Carrasso out of jail as Marko Basa was crowded out after Carrasso had struggled to deal with a corner.
There were no attempts on target from either side after the resumption. Vincent Enyeama watched play from a distance as Lille enjoyed two-thirds possession and this was another clean sheet for the Nigerian international following a club-record 21 last term.
Girard handed a debut to Portuguese prodigy Marcos 'Rony' Lopes, on loan from Manchester City, and the attacking midfielder displayed excellent technique without being able to inspire his new team to victory. Nolan Roux was the last sub Girard called upon and the former Brest man at least managed to get a couple of efforts away. Both were wide and Carrasso had them covered in any case and so the spoils were shared.
Lille travel to another promoted club, Caen, in Week 2 and Metz entertain Nantes at the revamped Stade Saint-Symphorien where a record 11,000-plus season ticket holders will be hoping Cartier's men show the same spirit they did at the Pierre-Mauroy and bolt on added creativity.