French Ligue One: Lyon keeps grabbing the headlines with Benzema in the spotlight

Lyon used three unanswered goals in less than 10 minutes to overcome a 2-0 Le Mans lead. The goals were provided by Sidney Govou (71st min), Karim Benzema (74th), and Liverpool/Aston Villa castaway Milan Baros (78th) respectively as OL looks less than dominant this year. Le Mans opened the scoring thanks to Stephane Sessengon as he closed the first half with one and then opened the second half with another. The fact that Lyon looks resilient is dangerous if they decide to become their regular dominant selves again. Benzema looks poised to become the next Ligue One go-to striker and for that, he’s CHI’s player of the week.

Bordeaux kept their upper-table form with a 2-1 win over an upstart Monaco. Monaco barely made a noise and could not withstand a second-half double salvo from Moroccan Marouane Chamakh and Brazilian Wendel.

Nancy keeps winning and they’re not limiting themselves to beating lower table sides. This time the victim was Saint-Etienne, 2-0 with goals from Marc-Antoine Fortune and Carlos Kim. Kim gave them the lead in the 11th minute and Fortune put it away in the 85th. Nancy is proving tough to beat. As they sit clear above the rest by 2 points, with a game in tow.

Rennes and Lille fought it out to a 2-2 draw as Etienne Didot had a great game for Stade Rennais and the wanted Michel Bastos provided the 76th minute equalizer for Lille. Strasbourg and Lorient played to a 0-0 tie, while Valenciennes and Metz did the same.

Toulouse rebounded from a nasty loss to Liverpool in the midweek Champions League qualifiers to push Auxerre even closer to the bottom. Johan Elmander and Moussa Sissoko did the damage late in the game as Auxerre sat helpless, absorbing another loss and boasting a -13 goal difference.

On Sunday, Marseille and Paris St-Germain played to a 1-1 draw with all of the scoring being done within 20 minutes. Djibril Cisse scored his first Ligue One goal of the year but Pegguy Luyindula replied no more than 10 minutes later. Despite inconsistent form to start the season, Lyon is still ahead of those originally predicted to be their biggest competitors this season. If Marseille and PSG don’t get it together, Lyon could lift their 7th.

Also on Sunday, Nice needed just one from Baky Kone to beat Racing Lens, who are off to a winless start in 5 games, 1-0.

Standings

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French Ligue One: Midweek action yields win for Lyon

Lyon overcame a Valter Birsa PK conversion by sandwiching the Sochaux player’s strike with two of their own. Karim Benzema struck again and is fast becoming a staple in the starting line-up while offseason purchase and former Lille leader Mathieu Bodmer provided the winner early in the second half as Lyon survived 2-1.

Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, and Saint-Etienne all registered shutout wins. Monaco needed the early strike from former Vert Frederic Piquionne to over come Lille 1-0, while PSG and Saint-Etienne had slightly more comfortable wins. Amara Diane and Sylvain Armand did the dirty work for PSG and Saint-Etienne’s needed an Ilan penalty kick to beat a faltering Strasbourg. It’s the best start for Monaco [4-1-1] in a long time, while PSG underperforms again [1-4-1]. Les Verts opt for mediocrity in the tables and pure balance [2-2-2].

Olympique Marseille was the odd man out, the only giant to lose in the midweek. Les Bleus lost to a reeling Nice squad led by the production of Vincent Hognon and Belgian David Hellebuyck. Not even Samir Nasri can jumpstart this team as they desperately missing the presence of Ribery on the wing. Benoit Cheyrou does not compare…the game, however, saw most of the chances go Marseille’s way.

Rennes buried the hapless Auxerre even further in their relegation ditch as 2/3 of their concrete scoring chances were put away. Transfer target Jimmy Briand had the clincher as Auxerre never threatened and instead fell to 1-5-0 on the season.

Former Lyon player Alou Diarra hit for the only goal of the game as Bordeaux won a close contest with Metz, 1-0. Bordeaux sits pretty at 4th in the standings.

Tuesday’s match-up saw Valenciennes dominate yet another Ligue One squad. This time the victim was Lorient, losing 3-1 as Valenciennes depended on the brace of Gregory Pujol. To add a bit of a buffer zone, Sebastien Roudet added a goal in the waning minutes. Valenciennes sits proudly tied for first with an admirable 4-1-1 record.

French Ligue One: Monaco, Lyon, Marseille all win, but PSG falls off pace…again

Lyon scraped by Saint Etienne in the battle of the local rivals – young’un Karim Benzema provided the lone strike in the 53rd minute. A win at home but they still don’t look like themselves – if it weren’t for the good play of back-up keeper Remy Vercoutre, Lyon could have been looking at an unfamiliar spot in the standings. Both Freddy Guarin (a second-half sub) and new signing Blaise Matuidi (on Domenech’s rader for Les Bleus) kept up good form for Les Verts.

Paris Saint-Germain is held yet again to a tie, this time a 1-1 draw with Lille. Cameroonian Jean Makoun (a long-time PSG, Lyon transfer target) put Lille up first in early in the second half. Pauleta – the normally prolific Portuguese striker who has lost his touch this season – had a chance to equalize on a PK in the 71st minute when Amara Diane was taken down in the box. Pauleta was saved by the heroics of Pierre-Alain Frau – who found the net three minutes later. Both sides were gifted several opportunities in a game that lacked any finishing prowess.

Strasbourg defeated Lens 2-1 as Wason Renteria – young Colombian striker, just recently signed – was the star of the show. Renteria put Strasbourg up early in the second half to beat a quality Racing Lens squad.

Olympique Marseille took care of their business in Caen with a 2-1 win in an attempt to keep early-season tabs on Lyon. Mamadou Niang and Julien Rodriguez struck to ensure the victory. Caen’s goal was a last gasp strike as Marseille dictated the pace and play of most of the game.

Monaco got a win as well by scoring three unanswered goals after Daisuke Matsui’s opening strike for to put Le Mans in the lead 1-0. Frederic Piquionne (diva), Jeremy Menez, and Leandro Cufre did the damage as Monaco now sits in third (light years away from where they were last year).

Olivier Thomert played the role of hero in Rennes 2-0 win over Metz, scoring both goals. One in each half. His performance earned him CHI’s Player of the Week to join Johann Audel and Rafik Saifi in that category.

Olivier Thomert

David Bellion had the chance for an easy hat-trick but wasted his penalty strike as Les Girondins des Bordeaux could only manage a 2-2 tie against Lorient. I guess if you look on the bright side, Bellion (the former Man Utd youth star) did strike for two. Lorient’s resilience makes them the surprise 2nd place team in the standings.

Nancy kept first place in Ligue One by using four different scorers to pace a 4-1 win over Auxerre, who has started off this season pitifully.

Valenciennes beat Sochaux 3-1 as they continue to prove that they deserve to be in Ligue One as they were last year’s Reading of the Ligue One. Last year’s leading goalscorer Steve Savidan capped the win with his strike in the 75th minute.

Nice and Toulouse played to a 1-1 draw as Toulouse’s minds were clearly looking forward to the Champions League clash at midweek against Liverpool.

French Ligue One Standings

Lyon starts confidently, Marseille with a whimper

New coach Alain Perrin has got to be happy with the 2-0 shutout win over Auxerre, a top half contender. The victory bodes well for the club as it seemed they had lost more quality than they had brought in, but new signings: Fabio Grosso (nice to see a high-profile Italian over in France), Kader Keita (from Lille), Their losses, which now loom a little less, could still prove costly as it’s hard to replace an Eric Abidal (to Barcelona), Gerard Houllier, Florent Malouda (to Chelsea), Gregory Coupet (to injury, out 4 months, and Tiago (to Juventus).

Olympique Lyonnais

Milan Baros and young’un Karim Benzema put away their chances as Lyon seemingly breezed through their first match on the busy road towards a 7th consecutive title.

Main competitors Marseille found it much more difficult, despite significantly strengthening their squad, tying 0-0 against a scraptastic, Ligue One newcomers Strasbourg . The loss of tireless midfielder Franck Ribery to Bayern Munich proved obvious and a bit discerning as even the ‘next Zidane’ Samir Nasri couldn’t help the Marseille cause. New signings Karim Ziani and former Red Bolo Zenden couldn’t help break the deadlock, but made their competitive debuts.

Paris St-Germain and Monaco both tied their opening matches as well. PSG 0-0 against Sochaux and Monaco 1-1 against a tough Frederic Piquoinne-less Saint Etienne side.

CHI’s Ligue One Man of the Week: Johan Audel who had a hat-trick in his new squad, Valenciennes’ first match of the season versus Toulouse. Score ended up 3-1 as Valenciennes, newcomers last season, look to make their Ligue One status permanent. A good signing for the club, the 24-year old Audel should provide the offensive support necessary for Steve Savidan (who graced the top of the scoring charts last season) and to keep this team ready to produce week in and week out.

Johan Audel