A Ligue 1 match between Nice and Marseille on Sunday was called off after home supporters threw missiles at players on the pitch, sparking violent brawls between both sets of players, fans, and staff members.
Nice fans invaded the pitch after 75 minutes with their team leading 1-0 and angrily confronted opposing player Dimitri Payet, who had thrown a bottle lobbed at him back into the crowd.
Marseille players stepped in to intervene, confronting the furious Nice supporters, but visiting boss Jorge Sampaoli had to be restrained by his own staff and players as he confronted opposition stars before being led down the tunnel
Authorities in Nice have opened a probe into the incidents which caused the match abandonment, the local prosecutor’s office told AFP on Monday.
“An investigation is underway, but no one has been taken into custody” at this stage, said the prosecutor’s office.
A security cordon of stewards, dressed in yellow vests, tried to stem the pitch invasion before a brawl broke out between players of the two teams, supporters and staff.
The referee then led both teams off to the safety of the dressing room.
Eighty minutes after the game was suspended, Nice said they wanted to restart.
“The decision was taken by the authorities to resume the match, but Marseille do not want to,” Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere told broadcaster Prime Video.
Marseille refused with club officials claiming their players’ safety could not be guaranteed.
“Our players were attacked,” said Marseille president Pablo Longoria.
“The league wanted the match to restart. We decided for the safety of our players, who were attacked during the pitch invasion, not to resume because the safety of our players was not guaranteed.”
“The referee was with us, he confirmed to (Marseille coach) Jorge Sampaoli and me that safety was not guaranteed and decided to stop the game.”
Twenty people were treated by emergency services, including three who needed to be taken to hospital, the statement said.
The police had set up a roadblock to control entry to the Grand-Place, the historic centre of the city, but supporters gathered anyway and were allowed to make their way into the square through side streets.
They waved flags and scarves in their team’s colours, in a red halo of smoke, to the sound of exploding firecrackers while singing “We are the champions” and “Freed from desire” and dancing.
The mood was generally festive and good-natured atmosphere.
On Saturday, the regional prefect Michel Lalande had called on the people of Lille to “enjoy this moment of sport in complete safety, in a health context that is improving but remains fragile”.
He asked “everyone to continue to respect all the health measures in force and not to set off fireworks on the public highway”.
In the final analysis it is tempting to put the outcome of the French title race down to Paris Saint-Germain’s shortcomings, but nothing should be taken away from Lille’s remarkable achievement in winning Ligue 1 for the first time in a decade.
PSG, despite boasting the two most expensive signings ever in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, did suffer eight defeats, their most in a single campaign since 2010-11.
Yet somebody still needed to take advantage of the Qatar-owned club’s slip-ups and Lille did that emphatically. They also took four points off PSG, including beating them in Paris.
“We have only lost three games. Maybe PSG have not been as good but Lille have been great,” said winger Jonathan Bamba.
Lille’s success is partly down to circumstance, and partly down to two inspirational figures.
The coach, Christophe Galtier, took over a sinking ship from Marcelo Bielsa midway through the 2017-18 season.
Lille just avoided relegation and then finished second to PSG in his first full season. They were fourth when last season was ended early because of the coronavirus pandemic, and now they are champions.
Galtier’s success is all the more remarkable given that the club has regularly sold its best players.
In 2018 midfielder Yves Bissouma was sold to Brighton. In 2019 they sold star forward Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal for 80 million euros ($97m), Rafael Leao to AC Milan and midfielder Thiago Mendes to Lyon.
Last year top scorer Victor Osimhen left for Napoli for 70 million euros, while Brazilian centre-back Gabriel joined Arsenal for 30 million.
Yet Galtier has brilliantly incorporated replacements and hugely enhanced a reputation that was already glowing following his record in eight years at Saint-Etienne.
But the one-time Portsmouth assistant manager’s success would not have been possible without Luis Campos, the Portuguese super-scout who built the Monaco team that denied PSG the title in 2017.
He was also the genius behind the scenes at Lille, the man who made it possible for them to sell Pepe and Mendes in 2019 and replace them with Osimhen and Renato Sanches.
Last year he replaced Gabriel with young Dutch defender Sven Botman while replacing Osimhen with Canadian striker Jonathan David and signing veteran Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz.
‘King Burak’ has been an absolute superstar.
Fittingly, both men were on target in Sunday’s title-clinching 2-1 win at Angers.
Campos, though, left Monaco a year before their title triumph and his relationship with Lille ended midway through this season too.
After 2017, that Monaco team was gradually broken up. When the title celebrations among Lille supporters die down, they might worry for the future too.
Their current team was only not pillaged even more last summer because of the financial impact on Europe’s leading clubs of the pandemic.
This time Lille will lose more players, goalkeeper Mike Maignan and midfielder Boubakary Soumare probably among them, but Campos will not be there to sign replacements.
New owners, new direction?
Galtier’s achievements are even more remarkable given Lille went through considerable off-field turmoil in the winter.
It was not just Campos who left but also the club’s owner, Luxembourgish-Spanish businessman Gerard Lopez, who under financial pressure sold Lille in December to a subsidiary of the Merlyn Partners investment fund.
“What has allowed Lille to be in the spotlight today is simple,” Galtier told sports daily L’Equipe in November.
“The president found funds to invest in players spotted by a man of incredible competence.”
Now they have both gone and Galtier may not be there next season either. He has a year left on his contract but may feel he can take Lille no further. He has been linked with French rivals Lyon and Nice.
Lille now have a new president in ex-PSG sporting director Olivier Letang, but French football is still reeling from the collapse of a record domestic broadcast deal with Mediapro late last year.
In any case Lille’s budget is smaller than that of Lyon, Marseille and Monaco as well as PSG.
The Parisians will almost certainly be back next year but Lille, champions for the fourth time in their history, will be able to say the success was fun while it lasted.
Marseille lost more precious points in their quest for European football next season after going down to a drab 1-0 defeat by Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 action on Sunday.
Arnaud Nordin scored the decisive goal at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, latching on to a Wahbi Khazri cross at the end of the first half.
The result leaves Marseille in fifth position, equal with sixth-placed Lens on 56 points, while Rennes are two points further adrift in seventh ahead of their home match against reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain later Sunday.
Only the top three qualify for Champions League next season, while the fourth-placed team is entered into the Europa League. The fifth-placed team goes into the newly-established Europa Conference League.
On Saturday Lyon moved into the Champions League places and kept their slim Ligue 1 title hopes alive as midfielder Bruno Guimaraes scored twice in a 4-1 victory over Lorient.
Leaders Lille beat Lens 3-0 on Friday, while second-placed PSG can move within a point of Lille when they travel to face Rennes on Sunday.
Jose Fonte’s bullet header sent Lille top of Ligue 1 following a 2-1 home win over Bordeaux, although Paris Saint-Germain can reclaim first place later on Sunday when they host Lyon.
Jonathan Bamba’s exquisite curling strike gave Lille the lead on 16 minutes at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy before Toma Basic levelled from a Hatem Ben Arfa corner.
Portugal defender Fonte, who turns 37 later this month, powered in a header at a Bamba corner at the end of the first half to move Lille a point clear of PSG and two above Marseille who have two games in hand.
Lille travel to bottom side Dijon in midweek before the visit of defending champions PSG next Sunday in what could be a defining week in terms of a competitive title race this season.
“We did our job. We’ll go home and watch the other match (PSG v Lyon),” said Fonte. “We’ll keep going game after game and give everything.”
Just three points separate the top five clubs in Ligue 1, with in-form Lyon unbeaten in 10 matches and Montpellier winners in five of their past six.
Lyon, who have won at the Parc des Princes since 2007, will hope PSG are feeling the effects of completing their midweek Champions League match against Istanbul Basaksehir 24 hours later than planned.
Marseille reeled off their sixth successive victory on Saturday by beating Monaco 2-1 after their European adventure came to an abrupt end following a disastrous Champions League campaign.
Marseille secured a first win over Paris Saint-Germain in 21 matches as the Ligue 1 champions lost 1-0 on Sunday and had Neymar sent off on his return from serving a Covid-19 quarantine.
Florian Thauvin scored the only goal on 31 minutes at the Parc des Princes as Marseille earned a first victory over their bitter rivals since November 2011 in a game which ended with five red cards in injury time.
PSG, who lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich last month, have now lost their opening two games of a season without scoring for the first time since 1978/79 and the task for Thomas Tuchel’s coronavirus-afflicted side does not get any easier this month.
A frenzied schedule awaits, starting with the visit of Metz in midweek and a trip to Nice next Sunday, and Neymar now faces a suspension for a slap on Marseille defender Alvaro Gonzalez in an injury-time scuffle that resulted in five red cards.
The Brazilian appeared to accuse his opponent of racism as he followed Layvin Kurzawa and Leandro Paredes down the tunnel after he was sent off following a VAR review.
Argentine striker Dario Benedetto and left-back Jordan Amavi were shown red cards for the visitors.
Marseille are attempting to close the gap on PSG after coming a distant second last season and find themselves with an early six-point advantage over a club that has won the title seven of the past eight years.
After fielding a depleted line-up at Lens on Thursday, Tuchel was able to recall Neymar and Angel Di Maria for a match played in front of around 4,000 supporters in Paris.
However, Kylian Mbappe remained absent after testing positive for Covid-19 on France duty at the start of the week with Mauro Icardi and Marquinhos also still missing.
PSG handed a debut to Italy international Alessandro Florenzi following his arrival on a season-long loan from Roma while Sergio Rico started in goal after rejoining on a long-term deal.
Marseille ‘keeper Steve Mandanda produced a magnificent reflex to keep out an effort from Marco Verratti just a minute in as tempers bubbled over frequently in the capital.
Thauvin, who shone in Marseille’s opening 3-2 win at Brest before the international break, made the breakthrough when he turned in a Dimitri Payet free-kick from point-blank range.
Di Maria found the net for PSG just past the hour but had strayed clearly behind the last defender, and Marseille’s celebrations were cut short in similar fashion moments later when a Benedetto goal was ruled offside.
The Argentine rifled in a rebound after Rico parried from Thauvin, who was controversially adjudged to be in an offside position much to the frustration of Marseille.
PSG’s last goal came in the 3-0 win over RB Leipzig in the Champions League semi-final on August 18, and Neymar poked wide from a Pablo Sarabia cross before the contest turned ugly at the finish.
Relegated Amiens on Tuesday joined Lyon in telling AFP that they will challenge the decision to end the Ligue 1 season early before the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court.
The hearing on the appeals by the two clubs will take place on June 4, Alain Gest, president of the Amiens regional council tweeted on Thursday.
The club oppose the April 30 decision by the French Football League (LFP) to end the season due to the coronavirus pandemic, after the government said sports leagues could not resume until September at the earliest.
Amiens were relegated from Ligue 1 as the second-bottom team after the final table was decided based on points per game, with 10 scheduled rounds of matches remaining.
“Amiens are still fighting against this decision which we find unfair, incoherent and unfounded,” Amiens president Bernard Joannin told AFP.
“The LFP board of directors has pronounced an arbitrary relegation of our club.”
Lyon, who missed qualification for the Europa League after finishing seventh, said on Monday that they would also appeal at the Council of State.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas also wrote a letter Monday to France’s prime minister and sports minister urging them to reconsider the decision to end the season, with the government expected to announce next week a further easing of the lockdown.
Toulouse, who were in last place in Ligue 1 when the season ended, have also initiated legal action although they did not wish to confirm whether they too would appeal to the Council of State.
Ajaccio, who were third in Ligue 2, said they would follow that course of action.
“We maintain that AC Ajaccio are destined to play in Ligue 1 next season,” they said.
On Tuesday, an amendment on sports to Emmanuel Macron’s government’s latest emergency bill, to allow leagues to resume their seasons was defeated in the French Senate.
The French Ligue 1 and 2 2019/20 season has been cancelled after Edouard Philippe on Tuesday said football matches will not be played in the country until September.
“The big sporting affairs cannot occur before September. The 2019-20 football season cannot return,” Philippe said as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The French Professional Football League (LFP) had last week revealed plans for the resumption of the leagues on June 17 with UEFA giving August 2 as the date for the completion of domestic leagues in Europe.
In a statement, the LFP, however, said in accordance with the pronouncements made by the Prime Minister, the 2019-20 Ligue 1 and 2 season has ended.
“The LFP Board of Directors, which met on Tuesday 28 April, has taken note of the declarations by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe,” the statement read.
“As the case has been since the beginning of this health crisis, the LFP will adhere strictly to the decisions of the government and medical authorities.
“The Board of Directors will meet on 30 April to analyse the sporting and economic consequences of the measures announced by the Prime Minister.
“Following this meeting the Board of Directors will have to formally decide to end the 2019-20 season and call a General Assembly of the LFP.”
Paris Saint-Germain suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of rock-bottom Dijon on Friday with coach Thomas Tuchel accusing his expensively-assembled team of “being too passive and not playing together”.
It was the third loss of the Ligue 1 season for the French champions who could also see their lead at the top trimmed to just five points by the end of the weekend.
Dijon, who started the day at the foot of the table with just nine points, fell behind to Kylian Mbappe’s fifth goal in seven games.
However, Mounir Chouiar levelled in the sixth minute of stoppage time in the first half before Venezuelan international Jhonder Cadiz hit the winner in the 47th minute.
“We were too passive in the first half, not only in defence but also in attack because we did not play together,” said Tuchel.
“We lacked precision and rhythm. It was much better in the second half because we had three shots before half-time and 17 after the break. Maybe we didn’t deserve to have success or luck with us today.”
PSG were without the injured Neymar but looked more than capable of blowing away a Dijon team who had managed to score just six goals in 11 games before Friday’s match which was played out in torrential rain.
Dijon had previously never defeated PSG in the top flight in 2011, conceding 31 goals in eight meetings.
Mbappe gave PSG the lead in the 19th minute after a terrible mix-up in the Dijon defence allowed Angel Di Maria to steal possession and feed Mbappe.
The French World Cup winner finished with a delightful chip over Alfred Gomis in the Dijon goal.
After the match was held up due to a nasty blow suffered by Fouad Chafik who collided with Gomis, Dijon were on level terms.
Didier Ndong crossed from the right with PSG keeper Keylor Navas clearing the ball only as far as Chouiar who hit the target.
Two minutes into the second period, Cadiz shrugged off the attentions of Marquinhos and Idrissa Gueye before tucking away a left-foot shot between the legs of Navas.
“We hate to lose,” added Tuchel. “It could have been possible to win given the number of chances we created. We always say that we are in another league. We must accept defeat and improve but I retain confidence in my players.”
The three points lifted Dijon into third from bottom in the Ligue 1 table while PSG will now need to regroup before facing Club Brugge in the Champions League at home on Wednesday.
Marseille’s season suffered another setback Wednesday when they were knocked out of the French League Cup 2-1 at the hands of Monaco, just days after they endured a 4-0 defeat by PSG in Ligue 1.
With just one win in their last seven matches, the pressure is on coach Andre Villas-Boas with a cup exit compounding Marseille’s modest seventh position in the league table which sees them already 11 points behind champions PSG in the title race.
“The first half was disgraceful and we had a big talk at half-time. We said it was not possible and it’s amazing to compare the first half with the second half,” said Villas-Boas.
“We can accept losing to PSG, given their quality but not like this against Monaco.
“I wanted to win this cup, the team as well. It’s a shame as the fans were there for us, from the first to the last minute. Now, we have to give something back to them.”
Despite making seven changes from the side which started the 1-0 win over Nantes last weekend, Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim still had enough firepower to see off Marseille.
Both Monaco’s goals came in the first half.
On-loan striker Jean-Kevin Augustin opened the scoring in the 25th minute from a cross from Ruben Aguilar.
Aguilar added the second goal five minutes from the interval.
Marseille grabbed a consolation in the 77th minute when Benjamin Lecomte put through his own goal.
There will be no let up for Marseille this weekend when they welcome third-placed Lille to the Stade Velodrome.