France’s Ligue 1 returned with a bang this weekend with 33 goals across the 10 games. Nearly every game provided entertainment and action galore, making the lack of ability to actually watch the games in the UK even more perplexing – please take note, broadcasters!
We start in Marseille. Whilst their season opener against Toulouse may have taken a little while to get going, we had a moment for the record books on the stroke of half-time, as they were the first team in Ligue 1 to be awarded a penalty via the Video Assistant Referee. Dimitri Payet, who had earlier seen a couple of free kicks hit over the bar, tucked away the resulting spot-kick with ease.
Payet netted his second just after the hour mark as he reacted quickest to a rebound after Baptiste Reynet had saved an effort from Bouna Sarr. Aided by some poor Toulouse defending, Marseille were never really required to get out of second gear.
Bigger challenges will come for Rudi Garcia’s side, but it was the perfect way for them to get their campaign underway.
Monaco faced a far tougher task on Saturday afternoon as they travelled to Nantes, who were looking to impress in their first game under new coach Miguel Cardoso. The Cardoso effect was immediate, as Nantes looked comfortable on the ball and were always looking to get forward.
Unfortunately, they had no-one who could convert their chances, with captain Valentin Rongier particularly guilty of several wasteful misses. Monaco, though, weathered the storm, and, whilst looking far from their best, proved that it’s all about taking your chances, as Rony Lopes, Steven Jovetic, and Radamel Falcao were clinical.
With Emiliana Sala, Majeed Waris, plus Gabriel Boschilia – who per the terms of his loan, couldn’t play against his parent club – to come back into the starting line-up, they may have the players who can take those chances.
Bertrand Traore and Memphis Depay led the line for Lyon, with the latter looking to put a troublesome summer behind him. It was those two who provided the definitive moments of the game. Midway through the first half, Traore cut inside from the right, beat his man, and his quickfire shot from a narrow angle caught out goalkeeper Regis Gurtner to open the scoring. Deep into the second period, Memphis curled home a beautiful free kick from the edge of the area into the top corner to complete a 2-0 win.
The Thomas Tuchel era got underway at the Parc des Princes against Caen, but perhaps not with the lineup many expected, as without the likes of Edinson Cavani and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappé, he gave starts to youngsters Colin Dagba, Antoine Bernede, and Stanley N’Soki, with Gianluigi Buffon also making his league debut.
It didn’t take long for the PSG juggernaut to get underway again as the returning Neymar profited from a goalkeeper error to open the scoring. The Brazilian then turned provider as he crossed for Adrien Rabiot to convert into an empty net. In the second half, Stef Peeters crashed a free kick off the post for the visitors after a rare foray forward. PSG saw out the rest of the half with ease, controlling the game, with substitute Timothy Weah hitting the post before scoring a third after another goalkeeping mistake late on. A solid if not spectacular start for Tuchel, who should be praised for the number of youngsters introduced as PSG finished the game with six players aged 20 or under on the pitch.
In other games:
- Game of the weekend was in Angers as they hosted newly-promoted Nimes. On paper, this
shouldn’t have been much of a spectacle, but after Nimes took an early lead, Angers hit back
with three goals which looked to have wrapped up the points. The away side pulled a goal
back, but were then reduced to 10 men after Florian Miguel picked up two quick yellow
cards. Incredibly, though, Nimes scored again in the 85th and 88th minutes to give them a 4-3 win. Here’s to every Nimes game being that entertaining this season!
- Lille put last season’s troubles behind them as they comfortably saw off Rennes. Nicolas Pepe, Jonathan Bamba, and Lebo Mothiba all finding the net in a 3-1 victory. That trio plus
Yassine Benzia looked very impressive, full of pace and movement, which caused the Rennes
defence problems all evening. A promising start for Christophe Galtier’s side.
- The other promoted team, Reims, took all three points in a narrow 1-0 win at Nice. The home side dominated, but with no Alassane Plea, and Mario Balotelli on his way out, looked
devoid of ideas in Patrick Vieira’s first game in charge.
Goal of the weekend
Wahbi Khazri opened his account for new club Saint-Etienne in impressive style. A delicious deep cross from Lois Diony was hit on the volley by the Tunisian to give les Verts the lead in their win over Guingamp.
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