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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Marcelo Bielsa’s Lille slipped back into the automatic relegation places in Ligue 1 on Monday after crashing to a 3-0 defeat away at Amiens in a rearranged game.
The match had initially been abandoned in late September after a pitch-side barrier collapsed under the weight of Lille fans celebrating their team taking an early lead, leaving 29 supporters injured.
The travelling supporters who filled the same section of Amiens’ Stade de la Licorne on Monday saw their side slump to a heavy loss with Harrison Manzala starting the rout by scoring either side of half-time for the hosts.
Senegalese forward Moussa Konate then made it 3-0 five minutes from the end, and it would have been worse for Lille had Emmanuel Bourgaud’s late free-kick not thumped the post.
“I don’t want to divert attention because the less good team beat the better side 3-0 and it was a deserved result,” Bielsa said.
“As for my job, this result increases my share of the responsibility because the difference in quality between the two sides was clearly in our favour.
“If the team with less talented players wins 3-0 against us, it is my responsibility.”
Lille, who hired enigmatic Argentine coach Bielsa in the close season to front an ambitious project under new owner Gerard Lopez, had won their previous two outings against bottom side Metz and Saint-Etienne.
But this loss sent the 2011 champions back to second-bottom spot with just 12 points from 13 matches.
And they have away matches at Montpellier and third-placed Lyon coming up next, with a trip to leaders Paris Saint-Germain also looming next month.
Lille beat Saint-Etienne 3-1 on Friday to ease the pressure on under-fire Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa and move out of the Ligue 1 relegation zone.
The second straight win dragged Lille out of the bottom two, having ended a nine-match winless streak with a 3-0 victory over Metz before the international break.
Saint-Etienne stay sixth on the table, after losing their first game under new coach Julien Sable since Oscar Garcia quit this week.
Lille forward Nicolas Pepe leapt highest at the back post to open the scoring in the 20th minute at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy with his third goal in two matches.
Jonathan Bamba fired home a penalty on the stroke of half-time to equalise for the visitors, but the hosts retook the lead in the 71st minute.
Brazilian Thiago Mendes proved the difference, as the 25-year-old midfielder curled into the bottom corner from outside the area to score his second goal for Lille since joining from Sao Paulo in the close season.
Striker Ezequiel Ponce added some gloss to the scoreline with a minute of normal time to play as he slotted in his first goal since signing on loan from Roma.
Radamel Falcao scored a brace as French champions Monaco romped to a 4-0 thumping of Lille at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Friday to pile the pressure on home coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Stevan Jovetic and Rachid Ghezzal put Monaco in control at half-time with their first goals for the club since joining from Inter Milan and Lyon respectively.
The in-form Falcao piled more misery onto the hosts with a second-half brace to reach 11 league goals for the season.
Monaco move level on points with early leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who visit Montpellier on Saturday.
New Lille coach Bielsa is under increasing pressure, as his men are now winless in six matches since their opening-day victory over Nantes, a run during which they have only scored once.
The Argentinian had insisted earlier in the week that he would not walk out on the club like he did at Marseille two years ago, but his team’s pitiful display could test his resolve.
Monaco started on the front foot against a Lille outfit shot of confidence.
After winger Rony Lopes had gone close, former Manchester City striker Jovetic grabbed the opening goal in the 24th minute.
The Montenegrin international created space for a shot with a clever turn, before picking out the bottom corner from the edge of the box for his first goal for Leonardo Jardim’s men.
It didn’t take long for another close-season signing to get off the mark for the principality outfit, as former Lyon winger Ghezzal made it two six minutes later.
Full-back Almamy Toure, playing in place of the suspended Djibril Sidibe, burst down the right-hand side and picked out the onrushing Ghezzal, who slammed the ball past home goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
A hapless Lille finally had a shot in anger on the stroke of half-time, as Luiz Araujo fired wide.
That effort proved to be a false ray of hope though, as Monaco captain Falcao became the first player to reach 10 goals in any of Europe’s top five leagues this season just three minutes into the second period.
The Colombian showed his predatory instincts by meeting a rebound in the area with a bullet header into the back of the net.
Lopes had a shot well saved by Maignan after Falcao’s clever knock-down, before the former Manchester United flop converted a penalty to add further gloss to the scoreline.
The 31-year-old has now scored two or more goals four times in his seven league games so far this term.
In Friday’s first match, Mario Balotelli scored his sixth goal of the season in all competitions as Nice fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Angers at the Allianz Riviera.
The visitors forged ahead thanks to first-half goals from Mateo Pavlovic and Karl Toto Ekambi, but Balotelli’s spot-kick and Ismael Traore’s comical own goal handed Nice a point.
PSG will take on Montpellier without the injured Neymar for the first time since the Brazilian’s world record move from Barcelona, as they look to make it seven wins from seven to kick off the campaign.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has released the shortlist of players to vie for the 2014 African Footballer of the Year Award, with Super Eagles captain, Vincent Enyeama, the only Nigerian in the list.
Nigerian Vincent Enyeama, made the list alongside Title holder, Yaya Toure, who has been nominated for six consecutive years, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Yacine Brahimi, and Gervinho.
Goalkeeper Enyeama, who played in the last 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Nigeria, went for the event off the back of an outstanding campaign for French club Lille, where he kept 21 clean sheets in the last league season.
According to the organizers of the award, the winner will be decided by fans of African football, who have until 18:00 GMT on Monday, 24 November 2014 to vote for their choice.
Austin Okocha is the only Nigerian to have won the award since inception having finished tops in 2003 and 2004