Neymar Dedicates PSG Goal To Kobe Bryant

 

Neymar dedicated his second goal at Lille to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, whose death on Sunday in a helicopter crash shocked the world.

The Brazilian slotted home the 52nd-minute penalty that put PSG two goals up in the French Ligue 1 clash and went over to the television cameras by the side of the Stade Pierre Mauro pitch to make the number 24 with his fingers in honour of Bryant’s shirt number.

Bryant, who had been nominated for the NBA Hall of Fame in December, was confirmed dead at 41 years old on Sunday after a helicopter crashed and burst into flames in foggy conditions in suburban Los Angeles, leaving five people dead.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said there were no survivors from the morning crash on a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of LA.

In an email to AFP, Mayor of Calabasas Alicia Weintraub confirmed Bryant was among the victims.

“Yes, it is confirmed,” Weintraub wrote.

French League Cup: Lyon Beat Lille On Penalties To Reach Final

Lyon’s French midfielder Houssem Aouar (L) celebrates after scoring a goal during the French League Cup semifinal football match between Olympique Lyonnais and Lille LOSC at the Groupama stadium in Decines-Charpieu near Lyon, central-eastern France on January 21, 2020. AFP

 

Lyon beat Lille on penalties after a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Groupama Stadium on Tuesday to reach their sixth French League Cup final, setting up a possible clash with record eight-time winners Paris Saint-Germain.

Renato Sanches dragged what proved to be the last penalty of the shootout wide to send Lyon through.

This is the final season of the League Cup after the French league voted to suspend the competition from next term to ease fixture congestion.

Lille have never won the tournament, losing once in the final in 2016.

Lyon will bid to lift the trophy for the second time when they take on the winner of Wednesday’s second semi-final between Reims and PSG on April 4 at the Stade de France.

Portugal midfielder Sanches gave visitors Lille a 13th-minute lead with a low left-footed strike from outside the area to score his second goal for the club since joining from Bayern last August.

But the hosts were gifted a way back into the game four minutes later when centre-back Gabriel handled inside the area.

Moussa Dembele, who missed a penalty in the 4-3 French Cup win at Nantes on Saturday, drilled the spot-kick into the top corner to grab his sixth goal in five games.

Neither side created many chances either side of half-time, but Houssem Aouar appeared to have fired Lyon into the final with a fine long-range strike with five minutes remaining.

There was another twist in the tale, though, as, despite a lengthy delay for a VAR review, Lille were awarded an injury-time penalty for what appeared to be an excellent tackle by former Manchester United full-back Rafael on Jonathan Bamba.

Loic Remy, on as a 78th-minute substitute, stepped up with a cool ‘Panenka’ finish down the middle of the goal to force more spot-kicks.

But Ciprian Tatarusanu, playing in place of usual Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, saved Bamba’s opening penalty before Sanches’ miss sealed Lille’s fate.

AFP

Chelsea Edge Past Lille, Qualify For Champions League Last 16

Chelsea’s Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta (R) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the UEFA Champion’s League Group H football match between Chelsea and Lille at Stamford Bridge in London on December 10, 2019.
Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea booked their place in the last 16 of the Champions League as first-half goals from Tammy Abraham and Cesar Azpilicueta sealed a 2-1 win over a much-changed Lille at Stamford Bridge.

Victory for Valencia over Ajax in the other game in Group H means Frank Lampard’s men go through behind the Spaniards with last season’s semi-finalists relegated to the Europa League.

Chelsea knew victory would take them into the knockout stages no matter what the outcome was in Amsterdam and did their job early on against a Lille side with just one point to show for their return to the Champions League for the first time in seven years.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Survive Salzburg Test To Reach Champions League Last 16

Simple finishes from Abraham and Azpilicueta were just reward for a dominant first-half display, but Chelsea were forced to hold on in the final stages after Loic Remy halved Lille’s deficit against his old club 12 minutes from time.

The visitors were already sure to finish bottom of the group and coach Christophe Galtier showed his priority is trying to secure a return to the Champions League next season by finishing in the top three of Ligue 1 as he made seven changes to the side that beat Brest on Friday.

Chelsea had won just one of their previous five games after a great start to life under Lampard and the Blues boss responded by adding a little more experience to what has been a very young side so far this season.

Antonio Rudiger returned from injury to make just his second start of the campaign at centre-back, while Jorginho was restored in midfield to the side that lost 3-1 to Everton on Saturday.

Up front, Abraham was again flanked by Christian Pulisic and Willian, and all three combined to open the scoring on 19 minutes.

Pulisic unselfishly played in Willian on the right instead of opting to go for goal himself and the Brazilian’s driven cross was tapped in by Abraham for his 13th goal of the season.

Lille have been the whipping boys in a three-way shootout for two places in the last 16 and showed why 10 minutes before half-time when Azpilicueta was left completely unmarked to head home Emerson’s corner from close range.

Mike Maignan in the Lille goal kept his side in the game with a fine double save from Pulisic and Willian at the start of the second half.

However, Chelsea took their foot off the gas as Lampard replaced Pulisic and Abraham ahead of a busy festive period in the Premier League.

And the hosts had to suffer a nervy final dozen minutes when Remy fired in off the underside of the bar.

Remy was a peripheral figure during three seasons at Chelsea between 2014 and 2017, but nearly came back to haunt his old employers only to fire weakly into the arms of Kepa Arrizabalaga in stoppage time.

Instead, Chelsea saw the game out to mark another impressive milestone in Lampard’s first season in charge.

AFP

Willian Grabs Chelsea Winner As Lampard Hails Impact Of Young Stars

 

Willian’s brilliant late strike gave Chelsea a precious 2-1 win away to Lille on Wednesday that they will hope kickstarts their Champions League campaign, but it was the young stars in Frank Lampard’s side who stole the show again.

The Brazilian volleyed home in the 78th minute to decide the game under the roof at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on what was his 300th appearance for the club.

Tammy Abraham had earlier put Chelsea in front on his 22nd birthday with his eighth goal already this season, only for Victor Osimhen to equalise for Lille.

Chelsea are now off the mark in Group H after losing at home to Valencia a fortnight ago, although it is Ajax who continue to top the section with a maximum six points.

“Overall it was a good game. It’s never an easy place to play. Give it to the team, what a fantastic performance,” Abraham told BT Sport.

Lampard’s team face Ajax next and will do so with renewed belief after this victory.

“It is such a tough place — the roof was on, the crowd were up for it, the speed in their team and on the counter-attack especially was very evident, so we had to be ready for it and I thought our performance was really good,” said Lampard.

It was a game decided by one of the most experienced players on the pitch but which was bristling with exciting young talent as these clubs adjust to seeing their standout players — Eden Hazard on one side, Nicolas Pepe on the other — depart in the close season.

Lampard fielded two 24-year-olds as well as four more players aged 22 or under in his line-up here, as teenager Reece James started as a right wing-back in a 3-4-1-2 system.

James only made his top-team debut for the club a week ago in a League Cup tie against fourth-tier Grimsby Town. His second-half replacement, Callum Hudson-Odoi, set up the winner.

“This isn’t a game for niceties, we have to go and win these matches and improve all the time and there were loads of signs of team improvement tonight, and individuals,” Lampard added.

“The young players are responding and they have to keep doing it because the Champions League level is something else.”

Much has been made of Lampard’s promotion of youth this season in response to Chelsea’s transfer ban, although their team here also featured N’Golo Kante, with the France midfielder returning from his latest spell out.

Indeed, the average age of Chelsea’s team at kick-off was actually a year older than that of Lille.

Hudson-Odoi helps change game

Chelsea took a 22nd-minute lead when Fikayo Tomori’s ball into the box was not dealt with by the home defence, and Abraham — capped by England but eligible for Nigeria through his father — controlled and fire home.

Lille actually looked the better side going forward for long spells and Luiz Araujo was denied by a good Kepa Arrizabalaga save just after the half-hour.

Moments later they were level, Jonathan Bamba sending in a corner from the left for Osimhen, the gangly 20-year-old Nigerian striker signed in the summer, to head in his seventh of the campaign.

Jorginho struck the outside of the post with a first-time strike from range just before half-time, while Kepa tipped a Benjamin Andre header around the post early in the second half.

However, the introduction of Hudson-Odoi, the youngest of the lot at just 18, for James midway through the second half, and subsequent change of formation, breathed new life into the visitors.

Mason Mount was denied by Mike Maignan soon after, and just 12 minutes remained when winger Hudson-Odoi crossed from the left all the way to the back post where Willian connected with a volley that bounced down into the ground, over the goalkeeper’s head and in.

There was no way back for Lille, who have now failed to win any of their last 13 matches in Europe.

“They are used to playing matches like these every weekend, in Europe every season, and we saw the difference that exists between us,” said Lille coach Christophe Galtier.

Osimhen Scores As Lille Move Third In Ligue One

Lille’s Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen vies with Strasbourg’s Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovic and scores a goal during the French L1 football match between Lille LOSC and Racing Club Strasbourg Alsace at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d’Ascq, northern France on September 25, 2019. DENIS CHARLET / AFP

 

Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen scored as Lille moved into third in the Ligue 1 table with a 2-0 victory over Strasbourg on Wednesday, while Lyon were held by Brest.

Last season’s runners-up Lille have now won all four of their home league games this term and sit two points adrift of leaders Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the champions’ match with Reims.

Angers remain a surprise second, behind PSG on goal difference, after Rachid Alioui’s late double grabbed Stephane Moulin’s side a 2-0 win at Toulouse.

The 20-year-old Osimhen put Christophe Galtier’s Lille into a 43rd-minute lead at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy by lashing home after some slack Strasbourg defending to net his sixth goal in seven games this season.

The three points were secured 19 minutes into the second half as Osimhen turned provider for former Chelsea and Marseille forward Loic Remy to slide in his first goal of the campaign.

Elsewhere, Lyon saw their winless streak extended to six matches in all competitions with a 2-2 draw at promoted Brest.

Moussa Dembele moved joint-top of the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts on six strikes with Osimhen by giving Lyon a 28th-minute advantage, but Yoann Court equalised for Brest less than 60 seconds later.

Maxwel Cornet appeared to have eased some of the pressure on Lyon coach Sylvinho by netting in the 69th minute, but Court completed his double to snatch Brest a point with five minutes remaining.

Lyon, widely considered PSG’s likeliest title challengers ahead of this season, slipped to 10th, already six points off the pace.

AFP

Police Arrest 100 Lille Fans Ahead Of Ajax Champions League Match

Lille’s French coach Christophe Galtier speaks during a press conference on September 16, 2019 at Johan Cruyff Arena, in Amsterdam on the eve of their UEFA Champions league football match Ajax FC vs Losc. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Dutch police arrested at least 100 unruly Lille fans on Tuesday, ahead of the French club’s Champions League game against Ajax, for “disturbing the public order,” police said.

The supporters were arrested at a station close to the Johan Cruyff Arena hours ahead of the Group H match.

“Around 100 Lille supporters have been arrested in connection with disturbing the public order, setting off fireworks and violence,” Amsterdam police said in a tweet.

Supporters were also walking along the metro lines, forcing officials to halt rail traffic and evacuate two stations for a short while, the ANP national news agency reported.

Kickoff for the match is at 21.00 (1900 GMT).

AFP

Super Eagles’ Osimhen Scores As Lille Beat Angers

Lille’s Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen reacts after he scored a goal during the French L1 football match between Lille (LOSC) and Angers (SCO) at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d’Ascq on September 13, 2019.
DENIS CHARLET / AFP

 

Nigerian youngster Victor Osimhen scored his fifth Ligue 1 goal of the season as Lille claimed a 2-1 win over Angers on Friday.

The 20-year-old Osimhen netted the opener six minutes before half-time to move clear of Lyon’s Memphis Depay at the top of the early goalscoring charts in France.

Luiz Araujo’s fine individual strike in the 53rd minute doubled the lead for last season’s runners-up, who held on to take their third victory of the new campaign despite a late goal from Angers forward Stephane Bahoken.

READ ALSO: Kane Will Break My England Goal Record Says Rooney

Osimhen, who scored doubles in previous home victories over Saint-Etienne and Nantes, took advantage of a dreadful error by visiting goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle to grab his goal.

Lille is now third in the fledgeling table, level on points with leaders Paris Saint-Germain and second-placed Rennes.

Lyon could overtake them, though, when they visit Amiens later on Friday.

Reigning champions PSG could see Neymar feature for the first time this term after his long transfer saga when they host Strasbourg on Saturday.

AFP

Nigeria’s Osimhen Fires Lille To Winning Start On Debut

Lille’s Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen (C) vies with Nantes’ Malian defender Molla Wague during the French L1 football match between Lille (LOSC) and FC Nantes at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve-d’Ascq northern France, on August 11, 2019. PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

 

New signing Victor Osimhen marked his Ligue 1 debut with two goals as last year’s runners-up Lille kicked off their new campaign with a 2-1 victory over Nantes on Sunday.

Christophe Galtier’s hosts, who finished 16 points behind champions Paris Saint-Germain last term, were indebted to 20-year-old Osimhen at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

Osimhen in action during the stunning debut. PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

 

The five-time Nigeria international, signed from Belgian outfit Charleroi in the close season, quickly displayed his pace by racing clear and slotting home the opening goal in the 19th minute.

 

Osimhen (2L) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring his second goal during the game.
PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

 

Zeki Celik deflected Andrei Girotto’s strike into his own net six minutes after the break for the first goal of Christian Gourcuff’s reign as Nantes coach, but Osimhen had the final say with a thunderous 80th-minute strike.

Later on Sunday, PSG kick off their title defence at the Parc des Princes against Nimes, although the capital club will be without Neymar after admitting the Brazilian is closing in on a move away from France.

Osimhen celebrates after scoring. PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

 

Lyon had opened the season with an impressive 3-0 win at Monaco on Friday, while Andre Villas-Boas’ return to football as Marseille coach started with a 2-0 home loss to Reims on Saturday.

AFP

Lyon Signs Brazil’s Mendes After Sales Of Young Stars

Thiago Mendes/ AFP

 

French club Lyon on Wednesday completed the signing of Brazilian midfielder Thiago Mendes, reinvesting some of the 70 million euros ($79 million) they received from Tottenham for French international midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

Mendes, 27, was signed from Lyon’s Ligue 1 rivals Lille for a fee reported to be 25 million euros.

He is Lyon’s second Brazilian recruit of the summer after Jean Lucas was signed for eight million euros from Flamengo in a deal negotiated by Juninho Pernambucano, the Brazilian former Lyon player who has returned to the club as sporting director, and new coach Sylvinho.

READ ALSO: Jesus, Firmino Send Brazil Into Copa America Final As Messi Fails Again

On Tuesday, Ndombele finalised his move to Champions League finalists Tottenham, who smashed their transfer record to sign the highly-coveted 22-year-old.

Lyon have also sold defender Ferland Mendy to Real Madrid in a deal worth up to 53 million euros and in total their transfer receipts this summer amount to 113 million euros.

AFP

Marseille Match Halted After Firework Explodes On Touchline

Marseille’s defender Jordan Amavi (L), midfielder Kevin Strootman (2L), forward Konstantinos Mitroglou (C) and Lille’s French defender Jeremy Pied (R) react as firework exploded on the touchline during the French L1 football match between both clubs on January 25, 2019, at the velodrome stadium in Marseille, southern France. BORIS HORVAT / AFP

 

Marseille’s French Ligue 1 match against Lille was halted on Friday night when a firework exploded on the touchline in the 57th minute just inches away from two players.

The game started with a 10-minute stay-away strike. It was then stopped in the second half after a firework, thrown from the crowd, blew up at the feet of two Marseille players Kevin Strootman and Jordan Amavi.

Referee Amaury Delerue pointed to the player tunnel and the match officials and the visiting Lille team left the field. After kicking the ball around under the gaze of their fans, the Marseille players followed suit.

Following a 31-minute delay, the match was set to resume.

Alain Marseille, one of the league’s refereeing administrators, emerged from the match officials’ changing room to tell French television: “If the safety of the players could not be guarantee…that’s the end of the match.”

The fans stayed hoping that the match would resume and their team turn around a game in which they were again losing. Second-place Lille led 1-0, after Nicolas Pepe scored with a penalty just before half time.

Marseille have won only once since late November. In that time they have been eliminated from three cups and dropped to seventh in the league.

Frustrated fans called a strike for the first 10 minutes of Friday’s game. When the match kicked off swathes of the stands behind the goals at the normally vibrant Velodrome were empty except for banners hung by fan groups.

Most were aimed at owner Frank McCourt and president Jacques-Henri Eyraud. Others picked out coach Rudi Garcia.

At the north end, one banner, signed by ‘Marseille Trop Puissance’, said: “90 minutes of silence for a leadership that wants to kill its own supporters.”

Opposite, the ‘Winners’ wrote their messages in English, presumably for the benefit of McCourt, as American.

“You get scammed, your credibility takes a hit” read one.

“Fire the coach,” said another.

The messages were not all aimed at the club. One bore the name of Emiliano Sala, the former Nantes striker whose plane disappeared over the Channel.

During a similar protest in 2016, Marseille were three goals down by the time the fans came in.

This time when they took their places, the game was still scoreless.

AFP

Pepe Gives Second-Placed Lille Victory At Nimes

Lille’s Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe (R) scores a penalty kick during the French L1 football match between Lille and Reims on December 9, 2018 at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve-d’Ascq.
FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP

 

In-form striker Nicolas Pepe scored what proved to be the winner as 10-man Lille claimed a 3-2 win at Nimes on Sunday to consolidate second place in Ligue 1.

Later on Sunday, Lyon won 3-0 at home against struggling Monaco to move into third.

Lyon are three points behind Lille with a match in hand, while Montpellier, who did not play for a second consecutive week, are another two points back but have played two games fewer than Lille.

The French title race is all but over with reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain 10 points clear, but a young Lille side are eyeing a return to the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2012.

“What a match, I’m really proud of my players,” said Lille coach Christophe Galtier. “We must not forget that we played for more than an hour and 20 minutes with 10 men.

“With the added time, it was a very long and hard match physically.”

Portuguese teenager Rafael Leao headed Lille into a fourth-minute lead, but Galtier’s men suffered a setback when former Southampton centre-back Jose Fonte was sent off in the 16th minute.

Jonathan Bamba’s deflected effort doubled the advantage shortly before the interval, though, and Pepe appeared to have made the points safe midway through the second half with his 12th goal of the campaign.

The 10 men finally started to tire late on, but Lille held on for victory despite Nimes goals from Rachid Alioui and Clement Depres.

In the late game, Lyon dominated Thierry Henry’s Monaco from beginning to end. They took the lead in only the sixth minute with a goal by Houssem Aouar, his sixth of the season.

Nabil Fekir added the second in the 34th minute, attacking Kenny Tete’s low cross as Monaco’s Jemerson hesitated.

Monaco managed only one shot all game. They played almost the whole second half with 10 men after Aleksandr Golovin raked his studs down the back of Fekir’s calf in the 47th minute and was sent off.

Ferland Mendy added a deserved third for Lyon just before the hour mark.

AFP

Anelka Becomes Adviser To Lille’s Apprentice Strikers

French football player Nicolas Anelka attends the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille (LOSC) at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, November 2, 2018.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Former Arsenal and France international Nicolas Anelka has taken the first step towards a potential coaching role after agreeing to advise Lille’s up-and-coming strikers.

Anelka, 39, “will work at Lille’s youth academy advising the apprentices, in particular, focusing on the work and specific role of strikers,” the club said in a statement.

Lille president Gerard Lopez told AFP Anelka will “work with players ranging from 14 years old up to the reserve team”.

Described as a future star of the France team when he made his professional debut with Paris Saint-Germain in 1996, Anelka went on to enjoy a globe-trotting career that took him from Arsenal to Mumbai via some of the biggest clubs in Europe including a stint at Real Madrid.

After a return to PSG (2000-2002), he went on loan to Liverpool before joining Manchester City (2002-2005), Fenerbahce, Bolton and Chelsea, where he played his last meaningful campaigns in 2008-2012.

At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa Anelka’s France career came to an abrupt and controversial end.

He was handed an 18-match ban by the French Football Federation (FFF) after insults aimed at coach Raymond Domenech sparked the now infamous Knysna players’ strike.

Anelka ended his playing career in 2015 after 13 games with Mumbai City in the Indian top flight, whom he also briefly coached.

Lille coach Christophe Galtier said Anelka, now 39, was happy to cut his coaching teeth “out of the spotlight”.

“Nicolas is really enthusiastic. He wants to stay out of the spotlight and bring some of his striking expertise and know-how to our young players,” said Galtier.

“But for the moment he does not want to get involved with the professionals.”

AFP