Coupe de la Ligue 8emes – goalkeeping heroics and officiating fails

Rennes v OM CDL

This midweek saw the Coupe de la Ligue huitiemes (round of 16) as the European teams joined in with a schedule featuring only one survivor from Ligue 2, lanterne rouge Tours. The junior cup competition in France may not be the most intriguing, and with the European teams having played twice a week since the international break, and two Ligue 1 rounds to come before the winter break starts on Thursday, there was an understandable degree of rotation / realpolitik from various managers. However, with next season’s European spots already looking a bit sewn up, a cup run would be a cheering thing for many teams, and this round involved a pleasing amount of goals and associated chaos.

Ligue 2 sole survivors Tours didn’t make it through, losing away at Amiens, although they did get a 90th minute consolation from young Argentinian Daniel Mancini after Bachibou Koita and Emmanuel Bourgaud had put the home side 2-0 up in the first half. The surprise is possibly that the Ligue 2 side had made it this far, as they are currently dead last in the league with only five points and ten goals. On the upside, they are still in the Coupe de France, so we wait to see what they can pull out of the fire in the new year.

With the senior cup competition the traditional ice-breaker after the winter break, you can look out for Betfair customer offers 2018, as the ’32emes’ see three all-Ligue 1 match-ups, the most tempting of which is Rennes v PSG. The Parisiens have won the Coupe de France eleven times, including the last three editions, while Rennes have two trophies to their name, in 1965 and 1971, their most recent exploit reaching the final in 2014 to be beaten 2-0 by Guingamp. Bookmakers have PSG as favourites to take a fourth consecutive title, at 13/20, with Monaco – playing fourth-tier Yzeure – next on 15/4. The Coupe de France always turns up some shocks, however, and with two teams each from the sixth and eighth tiers taking part, as well as nearly 30 other amateur sides, you can always bet on an upset happening.

Back to the Coupe de la Ligue, and Tuesday saw three home wins as Bordeaux’s epic run of bad form continued with a 2-0 loss away at Toulouse, goals from Max-Alain Gradel and Ola Toivonen. Angers heaped more misery on Metz in the distraction from relegation derby, winning 1-0 through Angelo Fulgini. And Monaco recovered slightly from a terrible end to their Champions League ‘campaign’ beating Caen with goals from Guido Carillo and Radamel Falcao.

On to Wednesday, and as well as Amiens beating Tours, there was slightly more drama.

Possibly coincidentally, the LFP has just announced that they will be introducing VAR in Ligue 1 next season, for goals scored, penalties, straight reds, and errors of identity for bookings. Because Rennes v OM was a prime example of when it would be a good idea to have ‘eyes on’. Kostas Mitroglou opened the scoring early on, with Benjamin Andre levelling things up shortly afterwards. In the second half, Wahbi Khazri got Rennes’ second, as a touch from Aymen Abdennour deflected his long-range shot such that Yohann Pele was sitting down in quite the wrong position as the ball went in.

Things then got a little bit weird. Andre crashed another long-range shot off the crossbar, which bounced clearly out of the goal, but the assistant referee signalled for a goal. The referee, looking as baffled as the rest of us, then spent several minutes jogging around, conferring, ordering substitutions – which unfortunately looked a little bit like a request for a video replay – before eventually things restarted up the pitch with the score still at 2-1. The referee later said that for him it had been obvious (“flagrant“) that the ball hadn’t crossed the line, but as his assistant had said otherwise, they had to confer. Given that the ball had bounced off the crossbar and several feet back out into the area, you do wonder what the assistant was thinking, but at least the right decision did – eventually – get made.

Unfortunately shortly after that there was another officiating howler as Mitroglou bundled in a second for OM only to be blown up for offside, which…he kinda wasn’t. Valere Germain eventually managed to get a) the ball over the line and b) the goal given, in a radical shift, putting Rennes and the now furious OM into a penalty shoot-out. Here, Rennes’ back-up goalkeeper, Senegalese international Abdoulaye Diallo, was the hero, saving from Lucas Ocampos and Bouna Sarr, as the home side went through 4-3. Their penalties came from goalscorers Khazri and Andre, centre-back Joris Gnagnon, and Benjamin Bourigeaud, with Pele doing his best with a save from the other Rennes centre-back Jeremy Gelin.

After that, the multiplex featured round 2 of Strasbourg v PSG, the promoted side the only team to beat the Parisiens so far this season apart from Bayern Munich. PSG were ‘under strength’, meaning all players were full internationals apart from Presnel Kimpembe, called up but yet to play for France, and had 438 caps between them, while Racing’s cap-quotient was 73, 71 being on-loan Bakary Kone’s efforts for Burkina Faso and 2 for Idrissa Saadi for Algeria.

So, lightning did not strike twice. PSG ran out 4-2 winners at La Meinau, the opener a very unfortunate own-goal, followed by strikes from Angel di Maria, Dani Alves (playing at left-back) and Julian Draxler, while Strasbourg hung on in to make sure it wasn’t a cake-walk with a goal from captain Jeremy Grimm to make it 2-1, and a late reason to cheer from Jeremy Blayac to get their second. After including a couple of youngsters – Stanley N’Soki, Alec Georgen, and Yacine Adli – in their squad, only Christopher Nkunku featured for PSG, replacing Draxler for the last ten minutes, perhaps showing that Strasbourg made this more difficult than expected.

At the Mosson, Lyon opened the scoring on ten minutes as 18-year-old Myziane Maolida scored with a lifted shot over young replacement keeper Dimitry Bertaud more than a little off his line – this was cancelled out and quickly by two strikes in five minutes from Souleymane Camara, now 35. More followed for the home team from Salomon Sambia, just before half-time, and then his replacement Kevin Berigaud, as Montpellier ran out 4-1 winners against a Lyon side struggling without some key players as they look forward to Sunday’s Olympico.

The last game to finish was one between two teams who have not had the happiest start to the season, Lille and Nice. While les Aiglons are pulling themselves together a bit, LOSC have now been hit with a transfer ban, and are still mostly without a manager. Luiz Araujo opened the scoring for the home side early on, but Mario Balotelli levelled it up in the second half, so another penalty shoot-out beckoned. Here the hero was Yoan Cardinal for Nice, saving from Araujo and Junior Alonso, before Yves Bissouma put Lille’s final effort wide, Nice winning 3-2 on penalties.

The draw followed shortly after that belated whistle, for the quarter finals scheduled in and around 10 January, which feature a south-coast derby :

Angers v Montpellier
Amiens v PSG
Nice v Monaco
Rennes v Toulouse


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