Round 22 of France’s premier footballing division had drama both on and off the pitch. Leo Dubois was able to snatch a last-minute winner for Olympique Lyonnais, LOSC Lille won their fourth game in a row and FC Lorient shocked the richest club in the country. However, this drama was not bound to the pitch, as insurrectionists in the south of France attacked their club’s training facility in what can only be described as large-scale trespassing and vandalism.
Olympique de Marseille’s bout with Stade Rennais FC on Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Stade Vélodrome was abruptly cancelled Saturday morning after angry supporters trespassed onto La Commanderie, the club’s training facility. They wished to confront head coach Andre Villas-Boas and the players over the awful form of the club, as they’ve failed to win in their last five outings, and now sit ninth in the Ligue 1 table with two games in hand.
After marching in, they began throwing a multitude of flares onto one of the training pitches — which was empty at the time — as well as lighting multiple trees on fire. Proceeding onwards, one of the buildings inside the facility became their main target; it was pummeled with rocks, fences or anything they could get their hands on, shattering many windows as a result. Marseille center back Alvaro Gonzalez was struck with a projectile when attempting to reason with the mob, suffering a minor injury to his back.
The club released a statement following the incident, condemning the attack while also stating that the perpetrators were “a few hundred individuals” from the Ultras groups. Moreover, more detail was brought to the forefront by the statement in relation to the damage that was caused: “Thefts were perpetuated and vehicles were damaged. Five trees were burnt with the sole intention of destruction. Damage inside the buildings amounted to several hundred thousand euros.”
Club president Jacques-Henri Eyraud also released a communication regarding the insurrection: “Three hundred employees are tonight in a state of shock for having lived or discovered the images of an unspeakable attack against the OM institution.”
Finally, Marseille’s American owner, Frank McCourt, compared the insurrection on Saturday to the storming of the United States capital in early January: “What happened some weeks ago in Washington DC and what happened yesterday in Marseille follow a comparable logic: a few sources feed an inferno of opinions, invectives and threats that are amplified by social media creating the conditions that lead to violence and chaos.”
As of now, no make-up date has been set for the missed contest. Marseille are set to travel to the Stade-Bollaert Delelis to face RC Lens next weekend; however, we’ll see if the club will delay this match as well due to the unnerving attack that occurred over the weekend.
The honeymoon stage for managers in football lasts about two to three weeks, maybe even four if said manager is lucky. Then again, this comes as no surprise, as the introduction of a new manager is almost like a shot of adrenaline straight into the squad’s heart. The players might feel more motivated, energized and willing to adapt to the new style of play.
Right on cue, Paris Saint-Germain’s shocking defeat to Lorient on Sunday, Jan. 31 puts an end to the ecstasy first felt under Parisian manager Mauricio Pochettino. To his credit, this stage lasted longer than normal, as the Argentine manager sees his first loss with the club come in his sixth match at the helm.
To put it frank, the team in orange and black were simply a step ahead of “Les Parisiens” throughout the entirety of the match.
An inexcusable mishap in communication between Paris center midfielder Danilo Pereira and center back Thilo Kherer led to the first goal of the game for Lorient in the 36th minute, with midfielder Laurent Abergel putting them up 1-0.
The French champions would respond quickly; a quick combination play between Parisian forward Kylian Mbappe and attacking midfielder Neymar Jr. led to a penalty for Paris, after Neymar was brought down in the box. The Brazilian slotted the penalty home to bring them level just before the half. Then, 10 minutes after the intermission, forward Mauro Icardi was brought down in the box, giving Neymar another penalty which he, once again, slotted home in the 58th minute to take a 2-1 lead.
It seemed as if the Parisians attained a firm grip on the contest, and there would be no coming back for Lorient. This seemed to be an even greater reality when Lorient goalkeeper Mathieu Dreyer just barely saved Mauro Icardi’s header from finding the back of the net in the late stages of the second half. Despite having the upper hand, everything came crumbling down for the Qatari owned club thanks to dreadful defensive mistakes and a lack of discipline.
Lorient right midfielder Yoane Wissa was able to easily slice through the midfield and play a one-two with forward Terem Moffi in the box, with Wissa receiving it back and placing it into the corner to tie it up at two in the 80th minute. Pereira and center midfielder Leandro Paredes were too slow to react, forcing center back Kehrer to commit and although center back Presnel Kimpembe did block the first shot, Wissa was still able to slot it home.
Panic set in for Paris, as they could not fathom having to split the points with a relegation side, and they pushed everyone forward for the final 10 minutes. Lorient took advantage of this in stoppage time, as a long ball forward to Moffi put him in the clear to snatch the 3-2 victory for Lorient.
This catastrophic result moves the Parisians down to third in the table with 45 points, while Lorient maintain their position in 18th with 18 points.
Pochettino gave his assessment of the contest after the match: “We gave a lot of effort; I think in the second half we played much better than in the first half. We felt that the game was under control, but then we conceded two goals and lost. We need to improve, look forward and keep working.”
The reality is that there is no valid excuse for committing everyone forward in the final 10 minutes of the contest, while only having one defender at the back in Kimpembe. One must respect the opposition, and accept the fact that, on occasion, the points have to be split; moreover, the Parisians were playing away from home and without their usual starting 11. As a result, more caution should have been exercised.
Even though this loss is gut-wrenching for the Parisian faithful, they can keep their heads held high with the statements Neymar made to French television station “TF1” after the match, which asserts his desire to stay at PSG: “I am more calm and I am more happy. I want to stay at PSG. I also want Kylian to stay. We want PSG to be a great team. I want to continue to play football and be happy, that is the most important thing.” This statement follows a variety of reports that have claimed talks to be progressing between the Brazilian’s entourage and the club in relation to a contract extension; his current deal is set to expire in June of 2022.
What is just as notable is Neymar stating that he wants Mbappe to stay; it has been widely reported that Mbappe is assessing his options, and whether the French league is holding him back from reaching his full potential. As of now, Real Madrid and Liverpool have been the clubs most heavily linked to the French superstar. Sporting director Leonardo Araujo will hope the Brazilian’s positive remarks about Mbappe, along with the club’s project to one day be considered among Europe’s elite, will be enough to convince him to stay.