ROUND-UP: Africans in Ligue 1 – Week 14
Ligue 1 returned for the first time since the international break and the atrocity of the terror attacks in Paris which, sadly, left 130 dead.
Football is a game which unites and teams in the French Ligue 1 did just that by paying tribute to those that lost their lives: Paris Saint-Germain held a minute’s silence before their encounter at the Parc des Princes on Saturday and the French national anthem was played prior to Nice’s 3-0 win against Lyon at the Alliansz Riviera on Friday evening.
Despite the subdued and largely emotional return to action, Africa Football Shop’s Ligue 1 correspondent, Jamie Barlow, reports all the action; including how Benjamin Moukandjo became Ligue 1’s top scorer.
Goals from three Africans turned around a 1-0 deficit as Montpellier hit back to win 3-1 at home to Reims and stretch their unbeaten run to five matches. Mustapha Yatabare returned to lead the line and Bryan Dabo dropped from midfield to right back for the home side and both got on the score sheet. Following a dreadful start to Ligue 1, Montpellier have since responded well after going unbeaten in four games, but the home side conceded the opening goal on 12 minutes. Defender Anthony Weber produced a superb looping header to beat Laurent Pionnier from Diego Rigonato’s well executed out-swinging free-kick. The goal marked Weber’s first since 2012 and gave Reims hope of breaking their six-game losing streak. Montpellier levelled nine minutes later when Yatabare nodded in Ryad Boudebouz’s left-footed corner. The Algerian’s set-piece caused havoc and was flicked on by Dabo and Yatabare couldn’t miss from two-yards out. Mali international Yatabare was replaced on the hour mark by Souleymane Camara and this proved a fruitful tactical change by Rolland Courbis. The 32-year-old Senegalese striker completed the turnaround after taking advantage of some lax defending before rounding Togolese goalkeeper Kossi Agassa and coolly finishing into an empty net. Another Boudebouz corner – this time an out-winging delivery – was converted by French-Malian Dabo to secure the maximum points haul.
Benjamin Moukandjo’s tenth goal of the campaign proved no more than a consolation as PSG made it eight wins in eight with a 2-1 victory away at Lorient. The occasion was marked with a minute’s silence to commemorate the victims of the Paris terror attacks, which took place on Friday, 13 November. But Les Parisiens showed no mercy on their opponents as they stormed to victory on 26 minutes, when Hervin Ongenda scored his first Ligue 1 goal. It was fitting that the 20-year-old Paris-born striker gave the city something positive to shout about when he met a delivery from Gregory van der Wiel to slot the ball between Benjamin Lecomte’s legs for the opener. Blaise Matuidi added to his side’s lead shortly afterwards when he produced a smart first-time finish from an assist by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Cameroon star Moukandjo – who has been in scintillating form with two braces back-to-back – pulled one back eight minutes from time when he headed past Trapp to become the divison’s top scorer, but the effort was not enough to prevent Lorient’s defeat.
Nice took on Lyon at the Alliansz Riviera on Friday night in a game which saw the home side resoundingly romp to a 3-0 victory. Before kick-off the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was played to show solidarity after last week’s atrocity and no visiting supporters were permitted to attend the game for security reasons. The tie was a miserable one for the victors, and in particular for Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who put through his own net. Former Monaco player Valere Germain gave his team a 20th minute lead after being released by Jean Seri, before expertly lifting the ball over Lyon’s Anthony Lopez. Nice continued to trouble Lyon’s floundering backline and Ivorian Seri should have made it two five minutes later when he was played in by Germain. But the player toe-poked his effort wide. Central-African born Yanga-Mbiwa was unfortunate to score an own-goal four minutes after the interval. Lyon’s number two tried to prevent a low cross from being tapped in by Hatem Ben-Arfa but inadvertently stabbed the ball past his own goalkeeper. Vincent Koziello rifled a shot in the near-post after being set-up by Jeremy Pied to score the third 12 minutes from time.
Elsewhere, French-Cameroonian winger, Georges-Kévin N’Koudou, scored Marseille’s second in a 2-0 win against Saint-Etienne at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. French international Lassana Diarra – whose cousin died in the Bataclan concert venue – nearly emphatically opened the scoring when he unleashed a fierce left-footed drive from range which was kept out by the flying fingertips of Stéphane Ruffier. Romain Hamouma flashed a header over the top before Kévin Monnet-Paquet hit the post for Les Verts as Saint-Etienne piled on the pressure following Diarra’s near-miss. Míchel’s Marseille made the home side rue their gilt-edged opportunities when Michy Batshuayi deflected N’Koudou’s cross-cum-shot into the net in the 41st minute. The second was just as untidy as Pierre-Yves Polomat was caught in possession and Batshuayi fed Nkoudou, who recovered from a slip to hit a low effort from the edge of the box which took a slight touch off defender Loic Perrin before beating Ruffier.
Guingamp hosted Toulouse in a tie which both sides needed to win. Jocelyn Gourvennec’s Guingamp came into the encounter without a victory in four games languishing just above the drop zone, whilst the visitors had failed to win since the opening match of the season and sat second from bottom in the league table. Despite early pressure and successive chances for Toulouse, Guingamp were awarded the opportunity to take the lead from the spot when Yann Bodiger was adjudged to have fouled Marcus Coco despite minimal contact. Jimmy Briand’s resulting effort just before the break was saved by Ali Ahamada, who palmed the ball to safety after getting down well to his right. French-Guianese forward Sloan Privat broke the deadlock just after the restart when the player rose unmarked to direct a header into the net from a Yannis Salibur corner. And the points were secured with 20 minutes left to play when Frenchman Salibur saw his 25-yard free-kick fail to be dealt with by Ali Ahamada, who was unable to get his body behind the ball which swept past him. Tempers flared late on when Cameroon international Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik was given a straight red for pushing Coco in the face with four minutes left to play.
In other news, a goal from Cameroonian striker Jacques Zoua helped Ajaccio move out of the relegation zone for the first time this season and defeat Bastia 2-1 away in the Corsican derby. Zoua netted to level the scoreline at one apiece from the spot, before Khalid Boutaïb completed the turnaround on 70 minutes after Brandao had given Bastia an early lead.
AFS AFRICAN LIGUE 1 PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RYAD BOUDEBOUZ