With Salma Hayek in attendance the Rennes boys rise to the occasion


Another excellent week of Ligue 1 football is over, and matchday 13 ends with a new team sitting at the top of the table. Lyon’s routine 3-0 win over a poor looking Reims side saw them do what Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille, Saint-Etienne, Valenciennes and Lille had failed to do in the last three weeks, by seizing their chance to take over from a stuttering PSG at the head of the classement.

PSG opened up the opportunity for Lyon by losing at home for the second consecutive match – after having gone almost a year unbeaten at the Parc des Princes – in the weekend’s stand-out match. Rennes came out 2-1 winners, after a pulsating 90 minutes, played at a dangerously high-tempo, which could lazily be described as a game of two halves: Rennes more than held their own in the first half, having the better of the three excellent goals scored and overcoming the sending-off of goalkeeper Benoit Costil (which led to an excellent coat-throwing flounce from Antonetti); after Makoun was also given his marching orders minutes into the second half, Rennes – no doubt inspired by support from Salma Hayek, who is married to Rennes owner François-Henri Pinault – put up a rousing rearguard action, somehow surviving PSG’s onslaught to prevail.

Lyon have the added advantage of having a game in hand over PSG, as do Marseille, who missed their chance to end the weekend in first place, after losing 1-0 to Bordeaux, who jump up to second. In a generally insipid match, the highlight was probably the surprise appearance as a Marseille substitute of Fabrice Apruzesse. Although the appearance of a player who appears to have mangé toutes les tartes caused much hilarity on twitter, there is probably a more serious point in there somewhere – the fact that Marseille need to resort to putting 27 year old amateurs/debutants on the bench says something about their strength in depth; it also shows summer signing Florian Raspentino where Elie Baup sees him in the pecking order.

The weekend’s matches started with another in-form team, Lille, having the chance to go to the top of the tree. However, they lost 2-0 at Lorient, les Merlus getting back to winning ways for the first time since September.

The next two teams to squander their chance to go top were Saint-Etienne and Valenciennes. Les Verts in particular should be kicking themselves: 2-0 up at half-time, they conceded two second half goals to hosts Evian to miss their chance. Valenciennes, meanwhile, were held 1-1 at home to Montpellier. This may be in part because in-form Kadir only started on the bench for the hosts, but Montpellier should be given credit for a deserved draw – particularly after yet again finishing the match with 10 men.

With all the talk of the teams at the top, arguably the team of November so far is Sochaux. Their 1-0 win at Ajaccio means that they have collected 7 points out of the last 9 available, and climb out of the relegation zone. For the second consecutive week, Abdoul Camara starred for Sochaux – and here’s one of the most useless, boring facts you’ll ever read – he was born the day after team-mate Ryad Boudebouz! As for Ajaccio, a second consecutive home loss is cause for concern, as they may struggle if the Stade Francois-Coty is no longer a fortress.

While Evian replace Sochaux in the relegation zone, the two bottom places remain occupied by Troyes and Nancy, after they played out an entertaining 3-3 draw (highlights below). No doubt who will be the happier of the two though: after having only scored 5 goals all season beforehand, Nancy must have thought the points were sealed after entering the final 10 minutes 3-1 up. But Troyes’ Nivet say die (sorry!) attitude came through, the midfielder scoring a late brace to salvage a point and keep both teams in trouble.

Elsewhere, Brest continued their excellent home form with a 3-0 rout of Bastia. Ben Basat scored at home for the fifth time, tucking away a penalty which he won – softly. And the wheels seem to have come off at Toulouse, goalkeeper Ahamada dropped to the bench as they lost for the third consecutive week, this time 1-0 to Nice. The Niçois have drawn over half their matches this season. If, like on Sunday, they can turn those draws into wins, they could quickly climb the table and add to the scrum at the top – amazingly, only 3 points separate the top 7!

We’ll start this week’s awards with the goalkeepers. There were some excellent saves made this week, including a great effort by Montpellier’s Jourdren to keep out Gael Danic and an excellent stop by Sochaux’s Simon Pouplin to deny Ajaccio’s Samaritano (0:47 in).

But this week it is only right to focus on general performances. After Audard’s performance for Lorient on Friday night, providing the foundations for his team’s win with a string of good saves, the pick of which came against Chedjou and Payet, he must have thought he was a shoo-in for the award. However, goalkeeping performance of the week – of course – goes to Rennes’ Cheikh N’Diaye. Brought on in the 28th minute to replace the red-carded Costil, N’Diaye – once he had got over early nerves – excelled in repelling the PSG assault time and again, helped by his defence and by the frame of his goal when needed. The stats speak for themselves – despite only playing 62 minutes, he had more touches – 59 – than any other Rennes player, making 9 saves in the process. He was deservedly swamped by his team-mates (those who were still able to move) at the final whistle.

Not too many glaring misses this week but, seeing as it is almost identical to Brandao’s miss last week which we mentioned but weren’t able to show, we’ll give this one to Kevin Monnet-Paquet (1:43 in). Watch it. Now watch it again and imagine him wearing green and you’ve got last week’s miss too.

This week seemed to be a great week for assists, so here’s a pick of the best, starting with the Evian – Saint-Etienne match which had three beauties: Aubameyang’s two caviars for Max-Alain Gradel and Berigaud’s peach of a pass to Rabiu. Bakar’s pass to Mollo for Nancy’s second was also beautifully weighted (see footage below), as was Malbranque’s to Lopez. And finally a mention for Tremoulinas, whose perfect cross relieved the tedium at the Chaban-Delmas and highlighted again why he should be a permanent fixture in the France squad.

We end with goal of the week. Notable mentions to Nene for his cute flick over Costil (another great pass, this time by the otherwise average Pastore) and to Charbonnier, who opened his Montpellier account with a perfectly placed volley from outside the area.

In third place, however, is Julien Feret, for his free kick which ultimately won the match for Rennes (see video below, 1:18 in). With the ball to the right of the area and the PSG defence expecting the rampant Alessandrini to take the kick with his left, Feret cleverly curled the ball around the right hand side of the wall, leaving Sirigu beaten.

In joint-second place are Puygrenier’s goal and Nivet’s first for Nancy and Troyes respectively. Both comprise excellent close control and a smart volley, each giving the opposing keeper no chance. OK, Nivet’s is probably slightly better, but as Puygrenier is a defender and I feel sorry for Nancy this week, I’m not separating them.

Finally, goal of the week goes – yet again – to Romain Alessandrini. After his right-footed thunderbolt against Lille and his left-footed screamer against Nancy last week, this time, his superb left-footed half-volley as the ball fell to him on the edge of the area left Sirigu clutching at thin air.

Join us next week on @FrenchFtWeekly and @FFW_Live for coverage of another great round of matches, the highlights being the weekend opener between Saint-Etienne and Valenciennes, and the weekend closer between Marseille and Lille.

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