This weekend’s Ligue 1 action saw four teams win their first match of the season at the fourth attempt, while a couple of the bigger names continue to struggle and another big name is ominously already clear at the top.
The aim of this column, as well as giving a weekly summary of the past matchday, is also to introduce readers to some of the lesser-known clubs, players and sub-plots of Ligue 1 football. It would be lazy to only write about PSG and Kylian Mbappe every week.
But sometimes PSG, and particularly world champion Kylian Mbappe, make themselves impossible to ignore. And this was one of those weeks.
In the match of the weekend, PSG took at 0-2 lead at newly-promoted Nimes, were pegged back to 2-2, hung on as world champion Alphonse Areola pulled out a couple of world class saves (turning one onto the bar) and then scored two late goals to win 4-2 (and open a three point lead at the top of the table in the process). Mbappe’s afternoon was even more eventful: hacked down nastily by Teji Savanier in the 8th minute, booked for dissent in the 18th minute, played the one-two with Thomas Menuier that led to Neymar opening the scoring in the 36th minute, won the corner from which Angel di Maria scored directly in the 40th minute, scored an outstanding goal on 77 minutes to regain the lead, sent off in the 94th minute for pushing Savanier over after being hacked down again.
The match was a summary of all this is great and could be bad about Mbappe (who immediately after the match said that he’d do the same again, before relenting and apologising on twitter). He seems to outdo himself each week talent-wise, but the more he does that, the more he’ll be targeted. Although his reaction to a couple of very nasty fouls was understandable, he needs to rein in the attitude – particularly as it will be an open invitation to opponents to goad him into a reaction. He has passed every test faced in his career with top marks so far. It will be interesting to see how he faces this one down.
In Other Games
- The headline game of the weekend didn’t disappoint, Marseille recovering from seeing their 1-0 lead turned into a 2-1 deficit to come back and steal a late win at Monaco. A first win for a very long time against a “top 4” team (although this totally revamped, very young Monaco side are hardly – yet – the force of the last few years), but a big mental hurdle overcome. A big relief, too, for world champion Adil Rami, whose two howlers had handed Monaco the 2-1 lead.
- Another 3-2 win gave Nantes their first win of the season, at Strasbourg. Coach Miguel Cardoso is working to convert a very defensive-minded team of recent years into a football-playing outfit. This will take time and it is ridiculous that there was talk of him being under pressure pre-match. This win will hopefully give him more time and peace to continue his rebuild.
- Nice, too, are celebrating their first win of the season, after an impressive 1-0 win at Lyon (thanks largely to returning goalkeeper Walter Benitez’s man-of-the-match performance). In midweek, Patrick Vieira laughed off suggestions that his job was under threat. He too needs more time to put his stamp on the team; this win is a good statement. As for Lyon, new-signing Moussa Dembele has some work to do to revive Lyon’s goal-shy attack!
- Caen also got off the mark with an impressive 2-0 win at high-flying Dijon (who lost only four times at home last season). Claudio Beauvue, back in France on loan from Celta Vigo after his disappointing stint at Lyon, scored the late second on his debut.
Goal of the Weekend
Some impressive strikes this week, including Ambroise Oyongo’s half-volley for Montpellier and Antonin Bobichon’s bullet for Nimes. But no doubt about the pick of the bunch – Mbappe’s early goal of season contender, at full speed plucking a (world champion) Presnel Kimpembe hoof upfield out of the air and readjusting to volley into the top corner. Out-of-this-world class!
Pas si dur, il reçoit un ballon de l’espace. Qui n’a jamais contrôlé une météorite franchement. pic.twitter.com/CogGUNCXKt
— Larbi Tranculay (@Larbi_Tranculay) September 1, 2018