This weekend’s Ligue 1 action featured several thrashings, the return of Kylian Mbappe to Monaco and Marcelo Bielsa being photographed inside a dingy Lille cafe, fresh off the back of his ‘temporary suspension’.
Of course, despite the wording of Lille’s statement, it is blatant that Bielsa has been removed from his post. His short stint in French football has seen the Argentine lead his team head-on into the relegation mire, whilst replacing the majority of the team in the process. There have been occasional high points, but his suspension comes after the French side picked up just three wins in the opening 13 games of the season.
As Bielsa’s former side went down 3-0 to Montpellier, a wily cafe customer spotted the ex-manager firmly ensconced in the corner, supposedly watching Lille’s limp performance on his laptop. Coupled with his bag for life, Bielsa did cut a sorry figure in that moment in time, but with an apparent multi-million pay out coming his way from Lille, it won’t be long before we see the wily Argentine tactician bounces back into management soon.
Back on the pitch, Lille’s performance mirrored most of their domestic season. Just four minutes into the game, Paul Lasne picked out Jerome Roussillon, who tucked home into the bottom left corner. Just twenty minutes later, Montpellier’s comprehensive performance continued when Giovanni Sio guided home from Roussillon’s delivery.
A tidy finish from Casimir Ninga wrapped up the three points in the second half, and piled on Lille’s relegation worries.
Meanwhile, in Monaco, two of the top teams in France clashed at the summit of the table. The return of wonderkid Kylian Mbappe to his old stomping ground made the headlines, despite Edinson Cavani and Neymar doing the damage and earning Paris St Germain three crucial points.
Mbappe could have opened the scoring after only two minutes. The French forward was played through by Neymar, but as Danijel Subasic rushed out to narrow the angle, Mbappe could only fire his effort into the side netting.
After Cavani fired one effort wide, the in-form Uruguayan did eventually add to his impressive season’s tally. Julian Draxler teed up the striker, who poked home into the roof of the net to hand the Parisians the lead. Monaco’s best chance in the first half fell to Radamel Falcao, who narrowly curled over a free kick.
But in the second half, Paris St Germain doubled their lead. Neymar was felled in the box, and stepped up to bury home his penalty and spare Mbappe’s blushes. The former Monaco man was presented with a flurry of chances after the interval – he fired well over when composure was needed, and also shot wide of Subasic’s right hand post when clear of the Monaco defence.
His poor attacking display was matched by his lapse in concentration at the back. Joao Moutinho bent a set piece towards goal, which Mbappe failed to block properly. The ball span off the youngster and beat Areola’s outstretched hand to present Monaco with a route back into the game. Despite the eventual three points for the league leaders, he would have been expected to contribute more to Unai Emery’s side.
Lyon have now moved into second place, following their comprehensive away victory at Nice and Monaco’s slip-up. Bruno Genesio’s side took the lead after only five minutes, when Cornet found Memphis Depay with the outside of the boot, and the Dutchman slid in to open the scoring. Cornet then got on the score sheet himself, after he drifted past two defenders in the box before drilling home past Benitez.
After just 27 minutes it was 3-0. Houssem Aouar played through Mariano, whose rapid pace saw him break through on goal and finish first time into the bottom left corner. Memphis Depay notched his second of the game after the interval, when he received a pass from Mariano and bent home a first time effort across Benitez. The Dutchman was withdrawn by his manager shortly after, and the former Manchester United man wasn’t shy in showing his frustration about the decision.
Maolida’s finish late into the game topped off the game, and fired Lyon up into second place. Many pundits wouldn’t have expected the club to mount any form of title challenge, but if Paris-Saint Germain were to slip up in the near future, it will be Lyon breathing down their neck and not Monaco as things currently stand.
At the other end of the table, Amiens continued their resurgence up the table following a 2-0 away win at Metz. The scoreline didn’t reflect how the game played out, and despite Metz’s relegation seeming unavoidable even before the holiday period, the strugglers had the best of the chances. Ibrahima Niane headed wide and Opa Nguette saw his shot blocked, before Amiens scored twice to wrap up the game and move into tenth place.
The mid-week fixtures have some promising match ups. Bordeaux face St Etienne at home, while Lyon take on Lille, who will soon be in the hunt for a new head coach. Paris Saint Germain will be expected to pick up three points again, as they take on Troyes at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.