The decision to cancel Marseille’s mach against Paris Saint-Germain caused problems off the pitch.
Marseille found themselves losing ground to league leaders Bordeaux after Gameday 10 of Ligue 1 without dropping a single point. The main game of the weekend between the country’s biggest rivals, OM and Paris Saint-Germain – what’s known here as “Le Choc” – was scheduled for a 9pm kick off on Sunday night and was rightly billed as the climax to the weekend’s top flight action. But when two PSG players – Ludovic Giuly and Mamadou Sakho – came down with suspected cases of swine flu the day before the game the fixture was suddenly in doubt.
By the time the French Football Federation had sent one of its doctors to the team hotel on the morning of the match it appeared that PSG’s Jeremy Clement had also succumbed to the illness. The decision was then taken to postpone the match with the entire PSG group quarantined for 72 hours. So far, so sensible. Or was it? Given that the distance between Paris and Marseille is more than 400 miles, there were already a number of PSG supporters in the southern city by the time the game was called off, just six hours before kick off.
With so many away supporters arriving in Marseille to find they had no match to watch it was almost inevitable that tempers would flare. Rival hooligan factions of the two clubs clashed both at the main station and around the Vieux Port area down by the waterfront. Twelve people were injured and 16 arrested, leading to serious questions being raised over the late decision to call the match off.
Fingers were quickly pointed at federation president Frederic Thiriez for reacting too slowly. But as usual Thiriez came out fighting, claiming it was mischief-making in the extreme to blame his organisation for all these woes. “The fights were pre-arranged,” he said with absolute conviction. “And what if we’d let the game go ahead and all of the Marseille team then contracted swine flu?” “Well what if you’d cancelled the match on the Saturday?” would seem to be the more apposite question…
Under the circumstances it was Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux who benefited most from the disarray. A stroll of a 3-0 home win against struggling Le Mans, with an own goal after just four minutes setting the home side on their way, saw the Champions open up a five point gap over Marseille – though they have of course, now played one game more than Didier Deschamps’ boys.
It’s nice and tight at the top still, with the season’s surprise package so far, Monaco, staying just one point adrift of top spot after another deserved victory, this time 3-1 at Boulogne. The club’s much-travelled manager Guy Lacombe has succeeded in injecting new life into the Principality club and has been quick to heap praise on his Brazilian striker Nene, who joined the club two years ago in a £5 illion move from Spanish outfit Celta Vigo.
Nene scored twice at Boulogne to take his season’s total to nine, making him France’s top marksman of the season so far. Last season’s Golden Boot, Toulouse’s Andre-Pierre Gignac, has been hugely disappointing during his side’s campaign so far, with just two league goals to his name to date. What’s interesting, though, is that Gignac scored three times during France’s last two international wins against the Faroe Isles and Austria. Is he coming off a bad run of form or is Gignac having trouble getting decent service from a Toulouse side that has stuttered and spluttered this season?
And talking of stuttering a spluttering, we can’t help but finish by looking at Lyon, who bounced back from a 2-0 defeat at home to Sochaux by stunning Liverpool with a Champions League victory at Anfield. But they then turned in one of their worst performances of the season, going down 4-1 away at Nice, who even now only reside in 14th place in the league.
“The Liverpool trip is no excuse,” said a clearly irate Bernard Lacombe, the former French international and right hand man to club President Jean-Michel Aulas. “There should never have been such a gap in the quality of our performances.” At least there’s one person who will be happy with the Lyon performance, though. Former manager Alain Perrin. His current side Saint-Etienne have a home derby match in the next round of Ligue 1 – against Lyon!