Week 16 review: LOSC reap reward as big guns are stunned
LOSC's 1-0 win over Montpellier made them the only side in the top seven to claim all three points in Week 16, PSG conceding another draw while OL and OM both tasted defeat in stunning fashion.
With Paris Saint-Germain 14 points clear atop the Ligue 1 Conforama standings, much of this season's drama is likely to centre on the battle for second place - which is once again occupied by a LOSC side who, thanks to golden boy Nicolas Pépé, clinched all three precious points 1-0 as they took their show on the road to direct rivals Montpellier on Tuesday.
"It's very positive to have won here in Montpellier, both in terms of points and our confidence," said LOSC boss Christophe Galtier, whose side leapfrogged Montpellier into second. "It's great to have 30 points after 16 games. We have three matches left [before the winter break], we have to get as many points as possible."
Ben Arfa scores screamer against boyhood club
The result also saw LOSC put two points between themselves and fourth-placed Lyon, who would have been hoping for much better than a 2-0 home loss to Rennes as they prepare for their UEFA Champions League trip to Donetsk on Wednesday, when they will be looking to secure place in the last 16 with a result.
However, OL youth academy product Hatem Ben Arfa got the ball rolling as the Brittany side sprang to life in their first match under new boss Julien Stéphan - who stepped in to replace the sacked Sabri Lamouchi on Monday, before Jordan Siebatcheu made sure of the precious three points 2-0.
"I don't know if I'm disappointed. It's more angry. In any case, I didn't imagine it was possible for us to play that way tonight. It looks like we haven't learned the lessons of the past," said OL boss Bruno Genesio. "I'm also responsible. I think we are an irresponsible group."
Harsh words perhaps, but not dissimilar from what Marseille boss Rudi Garcia offered up after his side twice squandered their lead in the 3-2 defeat in Nantes that Argentine striker Emiliano Sala star with an assist and a goal that took him to the top of the Ligue 1 Conforama scorers chart alongside Mbappé.
"It's always the same problem. We were consistent and twice took the lead. The goals we conceded were exactly what we practiced in training: crosses, balls into our box. It makes you wonder what the point of training is," said a frustrated Garcia, whose side have won just two of their last nine matches in all competitions. "I want to defend my players but when you make such big individual mistakes it's hard to win. I think we ignored the fundamentals. It was stupid."
Almost déjà vu
Later on Wednesday evening, a PSG side without a host of big names in the starting XI - notably Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Angel Di Maria, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos - went close to a repeat of last season's shock result in Strasbourg when the then-promoted club handed them their first defeat of the season. However, half-time sub Mbappé won a penalty that Edinson Cavani duly converted to clinch the capital club's second consecutive draw, 1-1, after a run of 14 wins.
"This evening, we lacked a little bit of luck, just like we did against Bordeaux," said PSG boss Thomas Tuchel, whose side nonetheless remain undefeated in Ligue 1 Conforama this season as they look ahead to their crunch UEFA Champions League clash in Serbia on Tuesday. "We have to accept the draw, but the performance was good. It will be even harder in Belgrade, we will have to be ready."
Falcao, Girondins, Crocodiles step up
Thierry Henry's Monaco nabbed the second win of the France legend's tenure as coach, with captain Radamel Falcao striking twice from the spot to dispatch hosts Amiens SC - who sit in 19th - 2-0, while Bordeaux rode the wave of their 2-2 Week 15 draw with PSG by trumping in-form Saint-Etienne 3-2 in a five-goal thriller.
Nîmes Olympique made it three league wins in a row - their fourth on the trot in all competitions - to go eighth after Loïck Landre struck a dramatic goal to make it 2-1 deep into injury time in Caen, who sit just above 18th-placed Monaco on goal difference alone.
While Les Crocodiles showed consistency, there were rare wins for Dijon, who pulled clear of the drop zone with a 2-1 win at home bottom club Guingamp despite losing Wesley Lautoa to a red card (71') - their first in 13 Ligue 1 Conforama matches - and Toulouse, who got their first three-point haul since Week 4 as Issiaga Sylla claimed the lone strike in a 1-0 win in Reims.
OGC Nice and Angers played out a 0-0 draw at the Allianz Riviera, with the silver lining for Aiglons boss Patrick Vieira that his side remain unbeaten in seven outings in all competitions.