Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Thu 13 August 2009

Jeu du Jour Week 1: Plus ça change...

A new dawn may have risen on Ligue 1 but there was a definite air of 'as you were' about the opening weekend of fixtures in France.

Reigning champions Bordeaux (how nice it is to say that for a change) picked up from where they left off at the end of last season with a 4-1 drubbing of Lens. Laurent Blanc's side finished last season with eleven straight wins to clinch the title and set a new Ligue 1 record. As it is, their twelfth couldn't have been much easier against the reigning Ligue 2 champions who will be glad to get this one out of the way.

It didn't take long for Bordeaux to find the net. Brazilian Gerrardo Wendell opened the scoring with a delightful bending shot that eluded Vedran Runje in the Lens goal. The away side, for all their inability to get the ball in the first half, surprisingly struck back with an equaliser four minutes from the interval. Tunisian forward Issam Jemâa steered home a cross from Yohan Demont to square things up going into the second period.

Bordeaux were giving a run out to new signing Jaroslav Plasil as a partner for Fernando Cavenaghi up front but it was Ligue 1 Player of 2008/09 Yoan Gourcuff that put Bordeaux back in front. His deflected shot wrong-footed Runje and Les Girondins were 2-1 up within eight minutes of the restart.

With renewed confidence, Bordeaux were again the dominant team but they had to wait until the end of the match to seal their victory. Marouane Chamakh, who until today was a transfer target for Arsenal, tapped in a third a minute into stoppage time before cheekily back-heeling an assist for Gourcuff who made it four just moments before the final whistle.

Marseille, who bought and sold players during the summer with all the measured judgement of a bull in a china shop, showed they were still intent on matching Bordeaux game for game. With new coach Didier Deschamps at the helm for his first coaching job since 2007, OM got their new campaign off to a flying start against Grenoble thanks to Mamadou Niang's great run and shot which went in before two minutes were on the clock.

Grenoble, one of my tips for a relegation struggle, had a lot to contend with after the early goal but weren't intent on letting the game slip away. They could have even equalised on the hour mark when Daniel Lubjoja set up Nassim Akrour with a great chance to score, but new Marseille signing Gabriel Heinze was on hand to snuff out the danger in the nick of time.

Marseille turned out to be the ones struggling to assert their superiority on the game but they had to wait until nine minutes from time when Benoit Cheyrou (brother of former Liverpool player Bruno) wrapped up the game with a second goal to win it for the visitors.

And what of the once-mighty Lyon, you may ask? Well they also continued their end-of-last-season form with an unconvincing 2-2 draw at Le Mans. Were it not for Lisandro Lopez, Lyon's replacement for Karim Benzema, they may not have even picked up a point as the former Porto striker scored a 90th-minute equaliser in a match that saw the home side lead twice.

Le Mans looked well organised thanks to their coach, former assistant to Jose Mourinho, Paulo Duarte, and it reaped dividends when Madibo Maiga opened the scoring after 21 minutes. Lyon came back purposefully and it was Lopez who instigated Lyon' first equaliser when he set up Mathieu Bodmer seven minutes later.

Yet Lyon's first game of the season looked to be unravelling when their defender Cris brought down Maiga in the box prior to a penalty which Mathieu Coutadeur converted 13 minutes into the second half. Coutadeur, along with another former Liverpool stalwart, Anthony Le Tallec, were on fine form but a late substitution from Lyon swung the game back in the visitors' favour.

Bafetimbi Gomis came on for Sidney Govou with twelve minutes left and Lyon finally seemed to have found the winning combination up front. As the end of the game approached, Lyon were awarded a free kick from which the impressive Lopez scored from. Much relief for the visiting fans, but surely many smiling faces too at the prospect of seeing more of the influential Lopez in the weeks to come.

Elsewhere, newly-promoted Montpellier earned an unlikely but hard-earned 1-1 draw at home to a Paris Saint-Germain side that we're tipping for a Europa League spot this season. Montpellier's first match back in the top flight for five years took a turn for the worse when new signing Cyril Jeunechamp was sent off only a third of the way through the match. When Ludovic Giuly gave PSG the lead in the 71st minute, an away win looked on the cards but Bosnian Emir Spahic headed in from a corner at the very end to salvage a point in remarkable fashion.

Boulogne, playing their first ever Ligue 1 match, weren't so lucky as they crashed 3-0 away to the ever-dangerous Rennes. The debutantes looked a little out of their depth in all fairness, but an improved second half display will give them hope for their next match at home to Grenoble on Sunday.

Lille surprisingly took a tumble 2-1 at home to Lorient who scored all three goals in their tie. An Olivier Monterrubio own goal after 66 minutes almost undid the away side's efforts having already gone 2-0 up, but they held on for a creditable win which bodes well for the visit of Montpellier this Saturday.

Two of the favourites for relegation, Saint-Etienne and Valenciennes, both made bad starts to their new campaigns. Les Verts went down 2-0 at home to mid-tablers Nice while Valenciennes lost 3-1 at home to Nancy despite opening the scoring through Mamadou Samassa. Expect both of those two teams to continue heading in the same direction for the foreseeable future.

Finally, Monaco started well with a 1-0 win over last season's surprise package, Toulouse. Brazilian winger Nenê returned from a year on loan at Espanyol to score the winner just before half time, while at the Stade de l'Abbé, Auxerre were busy losing by the same margin to Sochaux. The visitors almost picked up a second when new signing Charlie Davies saw his well-taken shot saved late on, but the eventual 1-0 win was good enough to defeat Auxerre who travel to Lens this weekend.

Until next week, it's à bientôt. Results and tables here.

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