Week 1 review: Sensational!
By S. Willis
As the FIFA World Cup trophy toured Ligue 1 Conforama stadia, the 2018-19 season got off to a spectacular start with plenty of goals in wins for Marseille, PSG, Monaco and Lyon but also promoted Nîmes and Reims.
Olympique de Marseille set the tone on Friday night as they dismantled Toulouse 4-0 in a stunning second-half performance. Dimitri Payet, who missed most of the UEFA Europa League final as well as France's victorious World Cup campaign through injury, starred with two goals - including the first VAR-assisted goal in Ligue 1 Conforama history - to help Rudi Garcia's side to top spot.
"We scored four goals, from our forwards above all, and didn't concede any," said an extremely happy Garcia. "Everyone played their part, even the substitutes. I have competitors in my team: I saw all their aggression, all their desire. It's almost a perfect evening. Actually, it is the perfect evening."
Neymar Jr leads the way
On Sunday night, Ligue 1 Conforama champions Paris Saint-Germain responded with a 3-0 domination of SM Caen at the Parc des Princes despite the absence of the likes of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappé and Marco Verratti. Neymar Jr - playing at centre-forward - was on hand to provide the star power, marking his first league outing since February with a goal, and Adrien Rabiot followed up with a second before Timothy Weah bagged his first goal for the senior team.
"We are very happy with this victory. We deserved it. This team has huge potential and still needs to improve. It's the start of the season," said Tuchel, who handed starts to three youth academy graduates - Colin Dagba, Stanley N'Soki and Antoine Bernede - as well as veteran Italy 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon. "The young players are all part of the squad. The players are all at different stages of the pre-season and it showed at certain times during the match."
AS Monaco have had their customary upheaval over the summer, with many comings and goings in the squad, but once again coach Leonardo Jardim looks to have found a way to make it work, if the 3-1 win in Nantes is anything to go by. Up against compatriot Miguel Cardoso, who was in his first match in charge of Les Canaris, Jardim could count on last season's backbone, with Rony Lopes, Stevan Jovetic and Radamel Falcao doing the damage before Emiliano Sala pulled one back for the hosts.
"We made the most of our opponents' fatigue, as we always do at the start of the season. We also took our chances much better than they did," said Jardim, whose side scored all three goals after he subbed Falcao on just after the hour-mark. "Making the changes I did is my job. We needed more aggressiveness in attacking midfield and the players decided that."
OL pick where they left off
While they may not have scored as many goals as their rivals, Olympique Lyonnais looked in utterly menacing form as they accounted for Amiens SC 2-0 thanks to a brilliant solo effort from Bertrand Traoré and a superb free-kick from Memphis Depay.
"I am satisfied with the victory," said coach Bruno Genesio, for whom World Cup-winning captain Nabil Fekir was on the bench. "It was important to win and start well at home. There are still a lot of things we need to correct."
The weekend's most dramatic encounter saw promoted Nîmes come back from 3-1 down to beat Angers SCO 4-3 in Angers - despite losing defender Florian Miguel to a red card at 3-2.
"We went through all the emotions and we showed our strength of character," said Crocodiles boss Bertrand Blaquart. "At 3-1 and then at 3-2 but playing with 10 v 11, I think it was only the ten players on the field that still believed. My players are crazy and it was surreal. We tried everything. The spirit was remarkable. We still need to adapt to the intensity of Ligue 1 but I'm sure the players will progress."
Dogue day afternoon
After beating the drop by the skin of their teeth last season, Christophe Galtier's LOSC clinched victory 3-1 in an encouraging performance at home to Rennes. New signing Clément Grenier got things rolling for Rennes just before the break but some flowing link-up play and clinical finishing saw Lebo Mothiba, Nicolas Pépé and Jonathan Bamba light up the second half to claim fourth place.
RC Strasbourg Alsace had Bordeaux defender Pablo - who earned a straight red card just 13 minutes into the season - to thank for making their job easier in the 2-0 win at the Matmut Atlantique, while Dijon FCO also scored an opening-day away win 2-1 in Montpellier.
New OGC Nice boss Patrick Vieira had doubtless been hoping for a better start to his coaching career in France but saw his Aiglons go down 1-0 to promoted Domino's Ligue 2 champions Stade de Reims, while Tunisia's World Cup star Wahbi Khazri struck on debut to help Saint-Etienne to a 2-1 win over EA Guingamp.