Man of the Match: What does it say about a match when a man who played only 23 minutes takes this award? Probably not much, as it concerns the quality of the match, but Marseille forward Brandão became the different-maker when, seven minutes after coming on, he outmuscled Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti to a ball in the left of Hugo Lloris’s six-yard box. The Brazilian target man kept his left-footed shot low and, beating Lloris into the far side-netting, won Marseille’s third straight Coupe de la Ligue.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Brandão was the change that was begging to be made. For 97 minutes, head coaches Didier Deschamps (Marseille) and Remi Garde seemed (for some unknown reason) too scared of ruining their sides’ mediocre performances. Lyon was more capable but never really tested Steve Mandanda, while Marseille was more plucky than able. One tweak from either side could have swayed the match either way. The managers decided not to rock the raft.
- And in that way, this match was completely wasted by Garde. OL were always one, positive tweak away from breaking the game open. But Garde never made that tweak, and with only a very organized Marseille line (continuously drawing crucial offside calls) keeping OM in the match, the Lyon boss mistakenly waited for his opponent to capitulate. Against a team that hadn’t won in two months, you would have thought he’d have taken some initiative.
- After 105 minutes, Alexandre Lacazette finally came on for Kim Kallstrom. Garde needed to make that move a half-hour earlier. Instead, Lyon waited until they were down to put on their bench’s best attacking option.
- Though it’s only his first season with the club, it’s very difficult to look at a match like this and think Remi Garde is the right man for Lyon. He sits fourth in league (with top two talent), was seen out of Europe by Cypriot cinderella APOEL, and let the league cup slip through his fingers. A Coupe de France final against third division Quevilly gives Lyon one more route to silverware, but after seeing Garde allow Deschamps 97 minutes to win this match, you can’t help but ask questions.
- For that reason, Deschamps should be seen as lucky rather than good. With his team consistently able to get behind Anthony Réveillère on Lyon’s right, he needed one of Brandão or André-Pierre Gignac on the field to work in the penalty area. That the match was so tight and looked like it could be decided on a set piece was even more reason to make that tweak. Instead, Deschamps waited for extra time, when a ball from Marseille’s left led to the goal.
- The win was Marseille’s first since Feb.22, when they defeated Inter Milan 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup. Though they sit ninth in Ligue 1, the trophy earns them spot in next year’s Europa League.
- As for Lyon, they have an easy Ligue run-in, one which could allow them to pass Lille for France’s final Champions League spot. They’ll need to bounce back from today’s result, something which may not be that difficult. They’re unlikely to be as frustrated by this performance as we were.
Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.
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Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City
Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.
Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth
The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.
But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.
Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace
Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a
Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland
Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.
One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.
Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.
The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.
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That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.
“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”
A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?
Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.
Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.
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A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.
Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.
Click play on the video above to watch it.
There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.
So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.
[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]
On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.
That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.
Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.