Top clubs the world over start badly on a regular basis, but often find form after a few weeks.  Lyon have been THE French side for a long while now so they should be at least worrying the top four in Ligue 1.  John Dobson reports.

Bordeaux 0-2 Brest

Lens 1-0 Nice

Monaco 0-2 Valenciennes

Nancy 1-0 Lorient

Rennes 0-1 Montpellier

St Etienne 1-1 Caen

Sochaux 1-3 Toulouse

Arles 1-1 Lyon

PSG 2-3 Auxerre

Lille 1-3 Marseille

How the mighty have fallen. The usual managerial cliché is that the table does not reflect what’s what until ten games have passed. Well they have now in France and Lyon languish in fourteenth place on the Ligue 1 table.

Two wins in a row in rounds eight and nine had seen them appear to be on the upward trajectory most punters expected them to ride up towards the pointy end. However, they ran into an Arles side at the weekend buoyed by their first point of the season. Moreover, they doubled that with a decent showing, certainly one belying their status at the bottom of the table, against a woefully out of sorts OL side. Some awful play between Cris and Aly Cissokho allowed Franck Djadjede in for the opener ten minutes from half time, the little striker still having plenty of work to do to take it round Hugo Lloris and slide it in as what passed for defence tried to get back. The first attack of the second half saw Lyon win a corner and Jimmy Briand headed powerfully and downward to bring the scores level and though both sides had chances to win it, a draw was probably a fair result. Lyon president Michel Aulas stood by embattled manager Claude Puel with the dreaded vote of confidence, but for a side that spent vast quantities of Euros in the summer, 14th simply isn’t good enough.

Rennes lost at home to Montpellier, but remain on top of the table. There was just the one goal in it, a towering header from Joris Marveaux from a corner just before the break. Rennes thought they had a sniff when Garry Bocaly was sent off just on the hour for a rash challenge and they certainly had the better chances, but it was ruined seven minutes from time when it became ten-a-side with Kader Mangane also seeing red for dangerous play.

St Etienne couldn’t take advantage as they were held by the redoubtable Caen who remain extremely difficult to beat and inside the top half of the table. The Normans were ahead late in the first half as a lovely whipped-in ball was found by Youssef El-Arabi on the run to divert it past Jeremie Janot who sat disconsolately appealing for a non-existent offside. Late in the second half, Emmanuel Riviere saw the ball break to him in the Caen box after a right scramble and he thrashed it into the top corner. Into stoppage time and Blaise Matuidi was pulled down in the box. Up stepped Dimitri Payet, but Ligue 1’s top scorer ballooned the spot kick over the bar. Instead, Marseille loom largest in Rennes’ rear view mirror. Last year, they played the stalking horse all year before taking over. Now, they look set to take charge sooner rather than later after dismantling Lille whose own challenge is faltering. Yohan Cabaye took advantage of a poor clearance to put Lille ahead midway through the first half, but Marseille came roaring back after the break. Loic Remy equalised from the edge of the box with a thunderous shot into the top corner and they were ahead through Lucho Gonzalez’s wickedly deflected shot. It was heading into the same spot as Remy’s, but ended up in the opposite corner leaving Mickael Landreau helpless. Ten minutes from time, Remy headed in his second to send OM into second, a point off the league lead.

Brest are up to fourth after beating Bordeaux who are still struggling down in ninth. We’ve been bigging up Nolan Roux, but he missed a penalty midway through the second half. Fortunately for him and his side, it didn’t matter as Romain Poyet had already headed Brest one up inside ten minutes and, ten minutes from time, Roux played an important role in Benoit Lesoimier with a brilliant run down the right flank. The cut back to Tomas Micola was squared for Lesoimier to side-foot into an open goal.

PSG are just bubbling under down in seventh, but remain dangerous customers. The trouble is their inconsistency and they lost at home to Auxerre who are still way down in 15th. Nene had the Parisians in front inside a minute with a brilliant, curling effort into the top corner, but the lead lasted barely three minutes as Jean-Pascal Mignot swooped in as PSG failed to deal with a corner. And AJA were in front moments later, Roy Contout with a simple finish from 12 yards after great work down the right hand side. The first half wasn’t half way done when Auxerre went further ahead through a quick counter aided by some lazy defending which allowed Julien Quercia to race through, take it round Edel Bete and slot it in from a tight angle. Auxerre were content to sit on it from there on in and allow PSG to do what they liked. They couldn’t break them down until the 68th minute and even then only through a dubious penalty. Contact, if there was any, between Stephane Grichting and Clement Chantome was slight, but the penalty was awarded and Nene duly converted.

Nene’s old club, Monaco, drop into the relegation zone after another defeat, this time to Valenciennes. Indeed, they’ve only won once all season and Gregory Pujol got both, one in each half. A sweeping move gave him the first just after a half hour and David Ducourtioux’s cross gave him the chance to dive in for a header for the second. Lens won for just the second time this season, but remain second bottom. Just the one goal was enough against Nice and it came deep in stoppage time, a low cross met by Issam Jemaa at the near post with no defender picking up his run. By contrast, it was a single early goal for Nancy that saw them beat Lorient, Julien Feret with a superb low finish from 20 yards. Lorient’s hopes of getting back into it ended when Lionel Cappone was sent off after an hour.

Still no strikers at Toulouse, but a late flurry saw them secure a much-needed win against Sochaux. Heading down the stretch, it looked set for a goalless draw, but left-back Daniel Congré headed in a corner with seventeen minutes to go, his second senior goal and first in over two years. The floodgates opened and Mauro Cetto doubled the lead seven minutes later with a stooping header from 12 yards and Congré made it three with a lovely flicked header at the near post in the last minute. Geoffrey Tulsane got some consolation for Sochaux deep in stoppage time with a diving header at the back post, but Toulouse are back up to fifth and the pressure on Alain Casanova has eased.

It’s a big week this coming weekend with first against second and third against fourth. Rennes still lead by a point from Marseille and go to the Vélodrome on Saturday night. Earlier in the day, St Etienne are away at Brest with both sides sitting on 18 points, the same total as Marseille. Toulouse are just a point further back and are at home to struggling Lens and they could go top should other results go their way, as could Montpellier if they beat PSG by enough. It’s all so tight at the top. Lyon are at home to Sochaux while Bordeaux are at Monaco where both managers are under pressure for a result.

Auxerre v Nice

Brest v St Etienne

Caen v Nancy

Lorient v Arles

Lyon v Sochaux

Toulouse v Lens

Marseille v Rennes

Monaco v Bordeaux

Valenciennes v Lille

Montpellier v PSG

You can follow John on Twitter @Euroballs

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