Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl) Thu 12 November 2009
Jeu du Jour Week 12: Game of the Century
If Week 12 of the 2009/10 Ligue 1 season took a little while to warm up in terms of 'goals scored', it was well and truly ablaze by the time it ended.
And end it did with the most dramatic game seen in the French top flight for many a long year. Lyon and Marseille faced each other having gained important UEFA Champions League results last week (a 1-1 draw for Lyon over Liverpool and a 6-0 thrashing by Marseille over FC Zurich) while looking to keep pace with Bordeaux at the top of the Ligue 1 table.
The match got off to a flying start when Miralem Pjanić put Lyon in front in the 3rd minute, but an equaliser arrived for the away side eight minutes later following a header from Souleymane Diawara from a corner kick. Another three minutes later, Lyon re-took the lead through a left-footed strike from Sidney Govou after an amazing run. Then just before Half Time, Marseille again drew level through Benoît Cheyrou whose shot was spilled over the line by Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The scores were level at 2-2 going into the second half, but Marseille didn't take long to take the lead for the first time. Bakari Koné received the ball via a cross and poked it pass Lloris to make it 3-2 to L'OM. What happened next was rather extraordinary in the overall context of the game – more than half an hour passed by without anyone scoring.
With the crowd reeling from such an apparent lack of commitment on the part of the players, the game reignited in the 74th minute when Marseille doubled their lead through Brandão. As the clock showed just ten minutes remaining, Lyon got a goal back from Lisandro López who skipped through Marseille's defence before cheekily chipping the ball over Steve Mandanda.
Four minutes later, Lyon were awarded a penalty by referee Stéphane Bré following a handball in the box by Gabriel Heinze. The penalty was converted by Lisandro and it looked for all the world as though Lyon had scraped to a 4-4 draw, but there was yet more to come going into injury time.
In the 90th minute, Lyon took the lead again at 5-4 following some great inter-play between Lisandro, Pjanić, and Michel Bastos, resulting in Bastos getting the goal. Then, finally, with Lyon two minutes away from victory, their chances of taking all three points were ruined when a goalmouth scramble brought about an own goal by Lyon's Jérémy Toulalan. 5-5 was the score, and that, finally was that.
It's already being talked about as the 'game of the century' - *any* century, for that matter – and few people disagree. You can also talk 'til the cows come home about whether it was merely the result of two teams being unable to defend, but the truth is these were two teams that like to play good, open football and were hell bent on winning. That alone was enough reason for this most marvellous of adverts for French football.
It's ironic that if either team had won, they'd have gone top of the table – largely thanks to Bordeaux's inexplicable 2-0 defeat at Lille. Rudi Garcia's men are actually something of a bogey team for Bordeaux having not been beaten by them since 2002, but Lille's form so far this season has been nothing short of poor.
Once again, both teams were returning from European action last week – Lille losing 3-2 in Genoa while Bordeaux did a great job in beating Bayern Munich 2-0 away – but conversely it was Bordeaux that looked as though they'd now lost their sparkle.
The game itself was quite balanced between the two sides and a breakthrough goal didn't arrive until the 68th minute when Yohan Cabaye was on hand to poke in a Pierre-Alain Frau shot that was parried by Bordeaux keeper Cédric Carrasso. Les Girondins fought back all the more in search of an equaliser, but it hadn't arrived by the time Florent Balmont grabbed a late penalty to confirm Lille as 2-0 winners.
As mentioned before, however, Bordeaux remain on top, albeit with a lead reduced to one point. After that comes Lyon, then in third are Auxerre who continue to bulldoze their way through anyone in their path – so much so that they're now only two points off the top. A narrow 1-0 win away to Le Mans was enough to bag another three points, but they may consider themselves lucky after Anthony Le Tallec and Ludovic Baal hit the woodwork late on. Le Tallec also saw his 86th-minute penalty saved by Olivier Sorin to seal a thoroughly frustrating day for Le Mans.
Auxerre's place in the top three was partly made possible after Monaco could only draw against... no, surely not... it can't be... it is... GRENOBLE!!! Yes, the team that have made losing games an art form finally picked up their first point of the season at the twelfth attempt. Monaco, looking to make amends after their defeat against Bordeaux last week, were unable to get back into winning ways and had to make do with a 0-0 against the bottom club. The point gained by both teams is likely to be more valuable to Grenoble than Monaco, however Grenoble still have seven points to get before catching up with the team in 19th, Le Mans.
Boulogne's demise continues. They're now in the bottom three after a 5-0 thumping at Lorient, Kevin Gameiro and Marama Vahirua scoring two each prior to Morgan Amalfitano's injury time goal that sealed the win. Lorient climb to fifth – unexpectedly so after a couple of poor matches, but aided no doubt by the fact that the three teams above them – Marseille, Valenciennes and Marseille – all drew.
Two of them, Valenciennes and Montpellier – played out a slightly dull 1-1 stalemate at Stade Nungesser, while Toulouse's 3-2 win over Rennes maintains their fine run of form and finally sees them return to the top half of the table. Just behind them are Nancy who handed Saint Etienne a rare win, Les Verts winning 1-0 thanks to a 70th-minute Dimitri Payet strike.
Speaking of rare wins, Lens picked up their first victory in nine games by beating Sochaux 2-1 to pull themselves out of the relegation zone. Sochaux, meanwhile, will be cheered by the release from hospital of striker Charlie Davis following his recent car accident, however his return to the team won't come soon enough as they now fall to 14th place in the table.
Finally, Nice continued their upward surge by beating Paris Saint Germain 1-0 in the capital. The winning goal from Loic Remy came two minutes from time and was enough to see Nice overtake PSG in the standings by moving up to 11th.
And that just about wraps it up for another Ligue 1 round-up. Full results and standings can be picked up here. For now though, it's à bientôt...