Ligue 1 Daily - Lyon lose as big week for French clubs in Europe begins
Wednesday 03 November 2010
Olympique Lyonnais started their Ligue 1 and UEFA Champions League campaigns in very differing fashions. Last season’s runner-ups to Marseille didn’t taste victory until their third league game of the season and it was five more games before their added a second. Alternatively, they hit the ground running in Group B of Europe’s premier competition. Wins over Schalke 04, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Benfica saw them jump straight to the top of the group but their win last night against their Portuguese opponents could be the start of a difficult week for French clubs in Europe.
Carlos Martins laid on all four goals for Benfica in Portugal and while the score line of 4-3 implies that it should have been a close and exciting game, in truth, it was totally different. The Liga ZON Sagres champions were four up through before they took the foot off the gas. Alan Kardec opened the scoring with a powerful header and Javi García made the most of a Hugo Lloris mistake either side of two spectacular Fábio Coentrão strikes. The first was a driven volley and the second was a brilliantly controlled first-time lob before Lyon started their comeback. Yoann Gourcuff, Bafétimbi Gomis and Dejan Lovren all scored in the last 16 minutes of the game but at no point was there a feeling around Estádio da Luz that a result for the French would be possible.
In a week that French national coach Laurent Blanc called for the French top-flight to be cut to 18 teams to protect the players involved in the national squad and European competitions, no less than four other French teams will compete in the Champions League and Europa League with their eyes still trained on making the knock-out stages and they all still in with a shout.
Olympique de Marseille play host to MŠK Žilina eager to add three points to their total. On the last Champions League match day, Marseille earned their first points of the campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 away win in Slovakia. Souleymane Diawara scored the winner just as the second half started and after the game, Marseille coach Didier Deschamps was under no illusions how important completing a double over Žilina could be: “We started the group badly with a couple of losses and we’ll need another win in a fortnight to stay in the mix.” Assuming Chelsea beat Spartak Moscow at Stamford Bridge, victory for the French champions will set-up a winner-takes-all clash in the Luzhniki Stadium for second place in Group F during the next round of fixtures. Defeat may leave them struggling for the consolation of a spot in the Europa League knockout stage.
In Group G, AJ Auxerre will play host to AFC Ajax knowing they need a result if they are to continue in Europe at all this season. In the return tie at the Amsterdam Arena, Demy de Zeeuw and Luis Suárez scored in the first half to deny an Auxerre comeback. Last season’s third place finishers in Ligue 1 started to press Ajax in the second half and threaten a comeback but de Godenzonen held firm despite Valter Birsa’s consolation. In a group also featuring Real Madrid and A.C. Milan it is unsurprising that Jean Fernandez’s side are pointless so far but they will all be aware that defeat at home will eliminate them completely from European competition for the 2010/11 season.
In the Europa League on Thursday, Paris Saint-Germain will be keen to hold onto the top spot in Group J when they host to Borussia Dortmund. In Group C, Lille OSC will be after a repeat performance of their 1-0 win two weeks ago as they take on Levski Sofia.