What a week in French football!Kevin Galvin provides us with the five biggest talking points from 24E Journée.
5. Metz Get A Much Needed Win
Ligue 2 leaders Metz got their first win of 2014, after a disastrous start to the calendar year, with a 2-1 win over 8th placed Caen. It took a Diafra Sakho penalty in the 56th minute to hand the table-toppers all three points, their first win in four games. The German border side went into the weekend with the threat of dropping off the top spot having lead by 12 points in the weeks before Christmas, but with Angers’ game called off against Brest due to the rain which has made pitches in France almost unplayable, Metz took their chance to extend their lead at the top to four points.
4. Istres A Disappointing Weekend in Provence
FC Istres fell three places over the weekend after their 1-0 loss to Auxerre. Having lost Mamadou Doumbia before half-time for a last-man shirt-tug on Sebastian Haller, the relegation battlers bravely fought for the best part of a half an hour, before they were eventually undone after Yann Boé-Kane applied the finishing touch to a rebound from a corner. The away side had a fantastic chance to grab a late equaliser with two minutes to go when Bagily Dabo was fouled by Auxerre ‘keeper Donovan Leon, but Istres captain Jerome Leroy struck the base of the post with his penalty. That miss was compounded even further with the news that Istres’ local rivals Nimes won their game against Le Havre, while Chateroux hammered CA Bastia 4-1.
3. Saint-Étienne Lose Ground
Ligue 1’s fourth placed side Saint-Étienne could only manage a draw against mid-table Toulouse on Friday night, with neither side able to hit the back of the net over the course of the 90 minutes. On Saturday both of ‘Les Verts’ challengers won, closing the gap between both Olympic sides and the UEFA Europa League place. Marseille beat Bastia comfortably at home 3-0, Dimitri Payet with a brace before half time while André-Pierre Gignac scored the third ten minutes into the second period. Lyon didn’t have such a comfortable victory, working hard to earn an excellent 2-1 win away to a very competitive Nantes side. Filip Dordevic had an eventful last few minutes, bringing Nantes back into the game with a goal in the 84th minute, and then taking it away from them by getting sent off two minutes later for faking to throw the ball at referee Nicolas Rainville
2. Valenciennes Two Points from Safety
Following their win against Nice and Evian’s 1-1 draw with Montpellier, Valenciennes are now just two points from escaping the drop zone. The Dutch border side enjoyed a hard-fought 2-1 victory at home to Nice; Tongo Doumbia fired the home side into the lead after 25 minutes with a free-header from the edge of the six yard box. Nice, having travelled 1,127 kilometres for the game, were not about to give up easily. Neal Maupay struck the equaliser into an empty net with a quarter of an hour remaining after some very unselfish work from Eric Bauthéac, and with the clock ticking down it seemed that the 9-hour journey would be worth it for Nice fans. That was until Abdul Waris broke Nice hearts with two minutes remaining, keeping his composure to cut inside and smack the ballon into the back of the net, handing his side a crucial lifeline.
1. Ligue 1’s Top Two Score One Apiece
Undoubtedly the centrepiece to last weekend’s action was the meeting of the top two club teams in France, PSG and Monaco, for a crucial game in the title race. The two sides went into the game at Stade Louis II with five points between them, and for Monaco a win was crucial to closing the gap with time beginning to run out. For the away side, a victory would almost certainly cement their place as champions for the second year in a row, and they silenced the home crowd a mere eight minutes into the game. Thiago Motta swung an inswinging corner onto the head of Alex, whose header was going wide before being deflected in by Javier Pastore. PSG took control in the game and were looking comfortable and good for the three points, only some fabulous saves by Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic maintaining the deficit at just one. His heroics would be rewarded as Fabinho’s cross was turned into his own net by compatriate Thiago Silva. Subasic was again on top to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic from close-range as the home side held out for a point. Not ideal but one that keeps them somewhat in the race.
Pundit Arena, Kevin Galvin.