AP Photo/Claude Paris

Nice has only French league title to focus on after cup exit

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PARIS (AP) French league leader Nice has only the title race to focus on for the rest of the season after going out of the French Cup on Sunday.

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Nice lost 2-1 away to Lorient, which is last in the first division, despite taking the lead through top scorer Alassane Plea near the end of the first half.

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Lorient equalized with a fine individual goal from former Arsenal forward Jeremie Aliadiere in the 71st minute, and Algerian midfielder Walid Mesloub’s winner shortly after sent Lorient into the fourth round.

Nice is also out of the League Cup and the Europa League, while its title rivals Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain are still involved in all three domestic competitions and the Champions League.

That could work to Nice’s advantage. The league resumes next weekend, with Nice two points ahead of Monaco and five clear of PSG.

Meanwhile, winger Remy Cabella scored his second goal of the game in extra time as Marseille continued its fine form with a 2-1 win away to first division rival Toulouse.

Marseille is thriving under coach Rudi Garcia and has lost only one of the last seven games.

First division Metz lost 2-0 at Lens – which is chasing promotion from the second division – but all other first division sides advanced.

Brazilian striker Malcom scored a late winner as Bordeaux won 1-0 away to second division Clermont, while Caen, Angers, Saint-Etienne and Rennes beat non-league sides.

Later Sunday, Lyon was facing Montpellier in an all-first division match.

Sunderland could face fines, points deduction for transfer dealings

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As if the 2015-16 Premier League season’s not been hard enough for Sunderland already — like they’ve not won few enough points already, either — things might be about to get even worse for manager Sam Allardyce and Co.

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Shortly before the new year, Sunderland agreed a transfer fee for Lorient defender Lamine Kone. Shortly after, Kone traveled to Wearside, where he would stay for eight days while undergoing medical evaluations and negotiating personal terms ahead of completing his move to the Black Cats.

That was the plan, anyway, until Sunderland completed and announced the transfer of Bayern Munich defender Jan Kirchhoff earlier this week, effectively ending their need for Kone, so they canceled the deal. Having spent more than a week in England, Kone missed two games and hadn’t trained for three weeks due to France’s international break before returning to Lorient.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Understandably, Lorient are not amused by how Sunderland conducted themselves during the whole ordeal and have submitted an official complaint to the French FA, which will then be forwarded on to the English FA and UEFA.

If the complaint is upheld, Sunderland could face punishment in the form of fines, transfer embargo, or, most worryingly, a deduction of points. With the club already sitting 19th in the PL table, five points from safety, any deduction of points could well seal their fate as a Championship club next season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic rewards young fan’s daring (VIDEO)


Zlatan Ibrahimović is known for a lot of things. Scoring dramatic goals. Speaking his mind freely. Taking to social media to boost his new Dare to Zlatan campaign by answering questions in a typical, absurdly egotistical manner.

Zlatan can amuse, Zlatan can awe, Zlatan can create controversy. But Ibrahimović very rarely displays a kinder, gentler side.

That’s why Ibra’s reaction to a young pitch invader on Friday was so surprising – and, dare we say it, touching. Paris Saint-Germain played out a close game with Lorient, winning 1-0 to move eleven points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table. Lorient goalkeeper Fabien Audard parried Ibrahimović’s shot, but Thiago Motta was on hand to capitalize, putting in PSG’s only goal. Zlatan very nearly doubled his side’s lead in the second half, sending in a sharp strike from distance, but again Audard was on hand to save.

When the whistle blew shortly after a Lorient goal was ruled out as offside, a PSG fan, desperate to show his gratitude to his side’s captain, slipped on to the pitch and ran toward Ibrahimovic, very nearly flattening him in a rather nifty tackle. Rather than unleash his firey temper at the youngster, Ibra smiled, took off his shirt, and presented it to his fan. The two shared a hug before the fan was sent away with some major bragging rights.

Don’t believe it? Watch for yourselves:

#RESPECT • Zlatan Ibrahimovic Gives his t-shirt… by f1074116181

Offshore drilling, France: at Paris Saint-Germain 2, Lorient 2

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Last year, Lorient opened their Ligue 1 season with an upset over title favorites Paris Saint Germain. This year, they nearly shocked us once more, taking a 2-0 lead in Paris before the juggernaut showed up.

Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of course. One of Paris Saint-Germain’s three huge offseason purchases, Ibra gave a display that would have made François Hollande forget his salary. Providing an endless stream of flicks, back heels, and headers, Ibrahimovic was involved in almost everything Paris Saint-Germain did going forward. Though he had his own issues finishing (missing two headers and nailing a post), Ibra’s creativity could have won this match if he got the smallest of help from Jeremy Menez. But instead of assists, it was two Ibra goals that brought PSG back, with his 64th minute chest trap, turn, and volley of Nene’s floated pass producing a probable goal of the weekend.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • PSG started making news well before the match when their lineup became known:
    • Nicolas Douchez started ahead of Salvatore Sirigu in goal,
    • Nene was on the bench, with Jeremy Menez in the XI,
    • Blaise Matuidi gave way to Marco Verratti in midfield,
    • While Clement Chantome was in for the suspended Javier Pastore.
  • In the opening minutes, PSG didn’t seem phased by Carlo Ancelotti’s selection. Ezequiel Lavezzi was threatening the left side of Lorient’s defense, nearly creating an early goal for Menez. The team’s passing was crisp, and it looked like the Parisian attack would perform to everybody’s lofty expectations.
  • In the fourth minute, however, PSG missed Matuidi, as a poor defensive decision from Verratti allowed a Lorient counter attack to go from concern to major threat. The Italian prospect dove toward a wall pass from Kevin Monnet-Paquet to Alain Traore. Monnet-Paquet would eventually get the ball back, beat Alex to get a ball into the six, and drive in cross that went off Maxwell and into the PSG goal.
  • The lead played right into Lorient’s hands, who use a deep line of four in the middle of their 4-4-2. Their defensive line stayed deep (within five yards of the top of the arc when the ball was near the center line) while their midfield only left about six yards of space between the lines.
  • Asked to help with Lavezzi and Menez, Lorient’s wide midfielders stayed in line with their central pair.
  • As a result, Veratti and Chantome had plenty of time to play long balls at the defense, with PSG’s best chances coming from (a) playing direct to Ibrahimovic, or (b) hitting Lavezzi and allowing him to quickly attack into the channels. Were it not for a very strong first half from Lorient center half Bruno Ecuele Manga, goalkeeper Fabien Audard would have been bombarded.
  • Three minutes into first half stoppage time, Lorient looked to have written one of the last chapters to their sequel. Left back Lucas Mareque intercepted a Chantome pass and quickly moved the ball to Jermaine Aliadiere. The former Middlesbrough attacker took on Alex and Mamadou Sahko, cutting in from the left to beat them both before finishing past Douchez, doubling Lorient’s lead.
  • At halftime, Ecuele Manga had to come off (having aggravated a leg injury). With head coach Christian Gourcuff forced to pull Alaixys Romao from midfield into defense, PSG’s siege was on.
  • The first breakthrough came in the 64th minute, with Ibrahimovic winning a lofted Nene ball from defender Gregory Bourillon, cushioning it with his chest, playing it to feet behind Bourillon, and getting a shot on (and into) goal before Romao and right back Lamine Kone could collapse and help. It was an amazing piece of skill, highlighting one of the more enthralling displays of technical proficiency you’re likely to see this summer.
  • Around Ibra’s opener, PSG’s attack was defined by frustration.
    • Ibra’s missed three chances, putting a brilliant set up by Lavezzi off the right post.
    • Lavezzi had also missed an easy chance, seemingly surprised when an Ibrahimovic ball found its way through traffic to his feet at the edge of the six.
    • Jeremey Menez, however, was the greatest offender, failing to convert four chances he should be expected to finish (three created by Ibrahimovic).
    • Add an Alex header off a corner that could have been converted, and PSG seemed like to be pressing.
  • In the 88th minute, PSG got the break they needed. A great through ball from Kevin Gameiro 35 yards out found Blaise Matuidi on a run from midfield. Bourillon, already on a yellow, was forced to take a chance his late challenge wouldn’t be called. It was, he was shown a second yellow, and Ibrahimovic converted the ensuing penalty kick.
  • For Lorient, it was an excellent performance. You could see the likes of Ecuele Manga, Mareque, Monnet-Pacquet, Traore and Aliadiere rise to the occasion. Each, along with Audard, gave inspired performances.
  • For PSG … well, it’s a better start than last year. And the Ibrahimovic-Lavezzi combination’s going to be amazing. But …
    • I’m sure Carlo Ancelotti will be happy to finally have Thiago Silva with the team, because his central defense (particularly, Alex) looked vulnerable.
    • In the middle, Marco Verratti enticed, but he’s going to have to offer something more than a great long ball, especially when Javier Pastore’s in the XI.
    • And Jeremy Menez? He probably shouldn’t be starting over Nene in important games.

Want more from beyond these borders? Check out more Offshore Drilling.