Ligue 1 Roundup – Nice close the gap, Lyon stumble at Rennes

Ligue 1

Guingamp-Nancy

The first match of the weekend was played between Guingamp and Nancy. The home team started with a 4-4-2 and the away side began with a 4-3-3. A very tight match and a very involved home crowd saw the home team take the victory by a score of 1-0. The away side started the game with a horror tackle by Modou Diagne in the 27th minute that provoked a straight red card for the French center back. The only goal of the game was assisted by right midfielder Yannis Salibur and scored by Sloan Privat. Salibur was a constant threat down the ride side for the home side completing an 86% pass rate from 51 passes and completing 10 crosses into the box. Left back Fernando Mercal was very active on his flank, as well as putting up a solid performance in defence. He had the most passes in the game with 64 and crossed the ball 7 times. In defence, he managed 4 clearances and won 7 duels (88%).

EA Guingamp now have 41 points from 31 games, while Nancy are in relegation zone with 28 points.

Marseille-Dijon

The first game on Saturday was played at the Stade Orange Velodrome between Marseille and Dijon. The home side had an accessible chance to take three points from the game, however they only managed a draw against 17th place Dijon. The home side lined-up in a 4-3-3 with Yohann Pele in goal and Rolando commanding the backline alongside Gregory Sertic. Ahead of them came a triangle consisting of William Vainqueur, Maxime Lopez, and Morgan Sanson, who performed brilliantly. Up top played the French internationals Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet, who managed to drill a freekick into the top left corner in the 48th minute for the home side’s only goal. Dijon lined-up in the same 4-3-3, with Baptiste Reynet in goal, Oussama Haddadi and Vincent Rufli as fullbacks, and Mehdi Abeid as a central defensive midfielder. Korean Chang-Hoon Kwon played as a right winger and was lively down his flank.

The match started with an extremely boring and static first half. The away side outfought the home side, who were untroubled due to their individual players having more talent. In the 45th minute, center back Gregory Sertic scored an own goal to give the away side the lead heading into the break. The home side was able to get the equalizer quick, via a freekick that Payet rifled into the top corner, just as he has done many times in the last year. From then on the game shifted in Marseille’s favor, however they failed to find their players in the last third, and therefore couldn’t put the ball in the net. The game ended 1-1. Frustrated Marseille has 19 shots and 63% possession, but that superiority didn’t show in the final score. Dijon has 8 shots, and managed just 241 passes in the game.

Marseille have now played 31 games, with a 13-8-10 record in Ligue 1, accounting for 47 points. Dijon, on the other hand, are 1 point away from relegation, with 28. Marseille’s next match is against Toulouse away, while Dijon host SC Bastia.

SC Bastia-Lille

The second and final match on Saturday April 1st was Bastia vs. Lille. The home side lined-up in a 4-1-4-1 intended to help them  find players between the lines, however they failed to do so. Abdelhamid El Kaoutari and Lindsay Rose played center backs. French midfielder Yannick Cahuzac played as a ‘number 5’, providing balance between the defensive line and the midfielders. On the right played Monaco loanee Allan Saint-Maximin, who had a mediocre game on the wing. He managed just 34 passes with 8 crosses. Lille played with a 4-2-3-1. Clearly the better side from the two, they were able to find an equilibrium between possession and chances created. Nigerian international Vincent Enyeama had a solid performance in goal, while the four players in front of him were superb. Sebastien Corchia provided 5 crosses and created 3 chances while left-back Franck Beria was impeccable in defence while also contributing to Lille’s ball retention with 44 passes. Center backs Adama Soumaoro and Junior Alonso blocked SC Bastia’s attack down the middle and accounted for most clearances from lateral crosses. Portuguese midfielder Xeka (Miguel Angelo da Silva) dominated the midfield, winning 94% of his duels and giving out 50 passes to his teammates. Yassine Benzia played as an attacking midfielder while goal scorer Nicolas de Preville played on the left. Euro Cup hero Eder started as a ‘number 9’, but failed to threaten for the away side.

The first half ended in a 0-0 draw, however Lille had enjoyed a couple chances to open the scoring. The home side managed a few chances as well, but none of them were a serious threat. The only goal of the game came three minutes after the beginning of the second half, when left midfielder De Preville opened the scoring. The game was played in front of 9,900 fans, and ended with a 0-1 win for Lille.

Lille are now 13th in the table with 37 points, while SC Bastia couldn’t be worse; they hold the last spot in Ligue 1, with just 25 points in 31 matches for the blue side.

Rennes-Lyon

The first match on Sunday came between home side Rennes and a powerful Lyon side. Rennes started the game with a traditional 4-4-2, with French wall Benoit Costil in goal, and Mexer (Edson Andre Mexer) who had an impressive game at CB, alongside Joris Gnagnon. Morgan Amalfitano started as a right midfielder, while Benjamin Andre played from the left. He failed to make much of an impact on the match as he came up against an in-form Rafael. Yoan Gourcuff played along Giovanni Sio up top. Firmin Ndombe Mubele came in as a substitute, and played in attack alongside these two. He was the only Rennes player to put the ball in the back of the net during the game. Lyon operated with a well worked 4-3-3, which on paper was thought to help their ball circulation and their triangle formations around the pitch, but failed to produce the desired results. In goal wasAnthony Lopes, with Rafael, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mouctar Diakhaby, and Jeremy Morel as the back four. Morel produced a lot in attack for the away side, while providing defensive balance to the left side of the field. Promising Lucas Tousart played in the central defensive-midfielder role. He managed a game high 88% successful passing rate. The 19 year-old can be categorized as one of the most promising midfielders of the upcoming generation. Next to him played French international Corentin Tolisso and Spaniard Sergi Darder. Tolisso contributed to both long possessions and versatility play for the away side, providing a game-high 74 passes, as well as providing the forwards with 7 long passes and managing 5 shots. In attack was French international Mathieu Valbuena, 20-year-old right winger Gnaly Maxwell Cornet, and Ligue 1’s 2nd top scorer Alexandre Lacazette.

The game started in a crazy manner, with left back Ramy Bensebaini committing a handball in front of his own goal, which lead to an immediate red card and a penalty, which was taken by Lacazette and blocked by Costil. Lyon’s opener came in the 53rd minute through a ground pass from left back Jeremy Morel to Cornet for him to finish from close range. The equalizing goal came late in the game, in the 81st minute precisely, from a longshot from substitute Firmin Mubele Ndombe, which rocketed into Lopes’ bottom corner. The game ended 1-1, with Lyon showing more inconsistent results this season.

They are now 4th, qualifying for Europa League qualifiers, with 51 points. The home side Rennes are 11th with 40 points.

Nantes-Angers

The following match of Matchday 31 was a battle between Nantes and Angers. The yellow-green side managed by Portuguese Sergio Conceicao managed an important home win vs. Anger, winning 2-1. The home side lined-up with a commonly used 4-4-2, with Koffi Ndidji and Diego Carlos playing as center backs, Leo Dubois playing right back and Lima at left bak. Dubois was by far the most notable player in the home side’s back four. Dominating the midfield were Valentin Rongier and Guillaume Gillet. Rongier was very active all around the pitch, providing a passing option for his teammates during the match. The front two consisted of Nantes’s top goal scorer Emiliano Sala, alongside Prejuce Nakoulma, who performed well with Burkina Faso at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Angers played with a 4-3-3. Goalkeeper Mathieu Michel had a below average game, while fullbacks Issa Cissokho and Vincent Manceau were no different. Cissokho got a red card in the 86th minute while Manceau received a yellow just 21 minutes in. In midfield was Cheikh Ndoye, pressed and defended well. In attack, as a ‘number 9’, was Famara Diedhiou, who scored a goal for the away side in the 55th minute.

The game started with a tough first half, with both teams focused more on battling than playing. The opener came just two minutes after the second half started from in form Prejuce Nakoulma. Nakoulma made it 2-0 seven minutes later. Angers got a goal from Diedhiou, which was assisted by Issa Cissokho, who would later receive a red card. The game ended 2-1, securing the three points for Nantes.

They are now 9th after 31 matches, with 41 points. They travel to Saint-Etienne next, and will be hoping to continue their winning ways. Angers are 12th  with 39 points.

Montpellier-Toulouse

The next game saw Toulouse visit Montpellier at the Stade de la Mosson. The home side, sitting in 15th, were looking for vital points to distance themselves from the relegation zone. They lined-up in a 4-2-3-1, with Laurent Pionnier in goal, Nordi Mukiele at right back, Yacouba Sylla in the middle, and an attacking trio behind the lone forward. On the right played skillful Stephane Sessegnon, who had a quality performance despite not scoring. Starlet Ryad Boudebouz didn’t trouble Toulouse’s defense, however Isaac Mbenza was able to bring a little more electricity to the left wing. Toulouse played with the same 4-2-3-1. Prodigy Alban Lafont returned in goal, as he saw no minutes in Toulouse’s last outing. Alban performed well on Sunday, pulling off a number of good saves.  The defensive line consisted of Kelvin Adou, 20 year-old Issa Diop, Cristopher Jullien, and Francois Moubandje. All five defensive players performed at a very high level, and were able to shut down Montpellier’s dangerous trio. Oscar Trejo played as a classical ‘number 10’ and scored for his side. Andy Delort played, along with club icon Martin Braithwaite on the left. Speedy youngster and Monaco loanee Corentin Jean played as a lone striker. Jean was often isolated and didn’t receive enough support from the midfield trio. He managed 0 shots, 1 yellow card and just 11 passes, before being subbed off in the 76th minute for Issiaga Sylla.

The match was technically rich, with both teams enjoying beautiful ball circulation during stages of the game. The only goal of the game came from Andy Delort, and the assist was provided by center back Christopher Jullien. The goal was crucial for Toulouse’s as it came just before half time. Toulouse are 10th after 31 matches played, with 40 points, and a record of 10-10-11. Montpellier, on the other hand, are 15th with 33 points. They’re five points about the relegation zone.

Lorient-Caen

On Sunday, Lorient hosted Caen for an oddly entertaining match, where both teams scored and had a player sent off. Lorient chose a 4-4-2 to start the match with. Goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte secured a clean sheet with a convincing performance. He was helped Lorient’s stury defence. Right back Erwin Koffi and left back Vincent Le Goff looked as solid as ever. They showed that defensive commitment they were lacking before. Center back Michael Ciani also performed impressively, with more clearances than anyone in the match. The next line of four consisted of skillful Sylvain Marveaux, Arnold Mvuemba, Francois Bellugou, and Romain Philippoteaux, with forwards being Majeed Waris and club top goal scorer Benjamin Moukandjo. Patrice Garande’s Caen lined-up in an innovative 3-4-3, attempting to imitate the positional play from the greatest teams across Europe this season, such as Chelsea, Tottenham, or Barcelona. Their back three consisted of Damien da Silva, Alaeddine Yahia, and Jordan Adeoti. Adeoti was the best performer of the three. Wingbacks were Frederic Guilbert on the right, and Vincent Bessat on the left. They both played a crucial role, as in most 3-4-3’s, in attacking the flanks. Since wingers Sylvio Rodelin and Yann Karamoh played inside, they left the whole sides for the wingbacks to run at the line. Julien Feret played as a CM and Ivan Santini played as a striker.

The match started with the home side pressing Caen high up the pitch. In the 29th minute, Benjamin Moukandjo managed to score his 10th goal of the campaign, giving Lorient a 1-0 lead they would hold on to for the remainder of the 90 minutes. Center midfielder Francois Bellugou managed to receive a straight red card in the 49th minute, and forced manager Bernard Casoni to make substitutions. Wesley Lautoa came on for Romain Philippoteaux after 51 minutes played. Nine minutes before the game ended, Damien da Silva was also sent off. Both teams ended up playing with 10 players, and the score remained 1-0.

Lorient have now won two straight matches and might miraculously save their season in the last months. They are 19th with 28 points, while Caen are 16th with 32 points.

Nice-Bordeaux

The last match of the 31st round of fixtures came between Nice and Bordeaux. Both teams are having quality Ligue 1 campaigns, with Nice being unbeaten in 5 and Bordeaux now 6th in the table. The home side started with Yoan Cardinale in goal, Arnaud Souquet on the right, Dante and Maxime Le Merchand as the center back pairing, and 23 year-old Brazilian Dalbert on the left. Technically gifted Vincent Koziello played along Jean Seri in the middle. Younes Belhanda and regular-substitute Valentin Eysseric started as wingers, with problematic Mario Balotelli up top. Bordeaux started with a 4-3-3, again putting all the emphasis on the wings. Youssouf Sabaly played as a RB and Diego Contento played as a LB. Speedy youngsters Malcom and Francois Kamano performed on the wings, with Gaetan Laborde as a ‘number 9.’

The match started with a quick opener by Laborde in the 9th minute, only to be canceled out by Mario Balotelli from the spot seven minutes later. With the score at 1-1, Nice started pushing forward and combining near Bordeaux’s box, and nine minutes they took the lead. Eysseric scored an absolute screamer from distance, proving coach Lucien Favre he can use his minutes efficiently. The match pretty much remained the same, with Bordeaux seriously posing a threat only after the 75th minute. The game ended 2-1 . Nice are now just a point off 2nd place PSG, however both Monaco and PSG have a game in hand. Bordeaux are now pushing for 5th.