Ligue 1: Lyon struggle against St-Etienne while Lizarazu becomes a jujitsu champion

Lyon can take little home comfort from their 1–1 draw with St-Etienne

Conspiracy theories, team-mates fighting over a chair, a Raymond Domenech cameo and a surprise jujitsu champion: only one top-eight team may have won, but last weekend's action in France was memorable for other reasons.

The game of the weekend was Lyon's derby match against St-Etienne, whose coach, Alain Perrin, guided Lyon to their first ever league and Cup double last season. Perrin is still waiting for the watch that the Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas, had promised him, and instead received a mini-replica of the Ligue 1 trophy when the two men met in the tunnel before the game. In return, Perrin mischievously gave his former boss a St-Etienne scarf.

If that didn't ruin Aulas's night, the match almost did: Lyon were unconvincing yet again in the 1–1 draw, their fourth in a row at home. It could have been worse, as after the second-half dismissal of Frédéric Piquionne, Lyon's former Sainté striker who was handed a rare start, the referee Stéphane Lannoy ignored Jean-Alain Boumsong's clear trip on Ilan Araujo. "We were robbed of the three points," moaned Perrin. "When a referee who is 10 metres away doesn't blow for a penalty, it shows that it's good to have a president who puts pressure on the referees." If anyone knows about that, it would be Perrin. In response, Lyon released a statement: "We are surprised and disappointed by M Perrin's defamatory remarks," it read. "He probably wanted to explain his team's inability to beat a team reduced to 10 men."

Lyon have now failed to win at the Stade Gerland since mid-November, a run of form in which they have failed to beat Valenciennes, Lorient and Marseille. As L'Equipe put it: "They are a lot less scary these days." And despite Aulas insisting the club "need to spend big" in the January transfer window, reported moves for Julien Faubert, Pascal Chimbonda, Charles N'Zogbia, Keirrison, Péguy Luyindula and Ricardo Oliveira all failed to materialise.

The title-race would be even more interesting if Lyon's rivals were able to capitalise on the champions' slip-ups, but Marseille continued their shaky form with a 1–0 defeat at Sochaux, their first away loss for more than a year, while Bordeaux drew 2–2 with Lille. This was the week that Laurent Blanc finally signed a two-year contract extension (with a release clause, apparently, if the France job comes up) while doubts over Eric Gerets's future gather momentum. The Belgian cuts an increasingly unhappy figure at l'OM and could be tempted to return to Germany, where he had offers last summer, at the end of the season. The signings of Brandao and Sylvain Wiltord are an admission that his summer recruitment has not worked, while two more attacking players will produce a further selection headache considering he has yet to work out an attacking system for his team.

The Sochaux match-winner was Mevlut Erdinc, their top scorer who despite playing for France Under-18s, is now a senior Turkey international. "My parents are Turkish but I didn't really decide to play for them, I just got a call-up so went along," he said. His parents showed the same sangfroid after an immigration officer spelt their surname "Erding" when they first entered France (hence the name on the back of Mevlut's shirt). This was Sochaux's third win of the season and keeps them in the relegation zone, but only one point behind St-Etienne and Auxerre. "We've drawn 11 out of 22 games, but if we can just pick up some wins, we'll be fine," said Erdinc, whose home town of Saint-Claude, famous for "les pipes", can now claim another popular export. Mevlut handled himself well when faced with his sniggering inquisitors on Fabulous Sport last week, who could not wait to point out that "une pipe" is also French slang for a blow job. "I'm proud to come from the town of 'les pipes'," Mevlut deadpanned.

PSG were the only top-eight side to win this weekend, a 2–0 victory over Caen, and their steady improvement has shown the importance of getting recruitment right. The stats bear this out: 74% of PSG's league goals have been scored by their new signings. Guillaume Hoarau, in his rookie year in the top flight, is now Ligue 1's joint top scorer, having won more headers (340, with a 45% success rate) than anyone else; another new signing Stéphane Sessègnon has completed more dribbles than anyone else (60 compared to Hatem Ben Arfa's 58); while no team has scored more headed goals (seven) than PSG. Hoarau's form may be too soon to earn him a call-up to the France squad for next week's friendly against Argentina but he should soon be moving up L'Equipe's list of top five players from La Réunion, which currently reads: 1 Florent Sinama-Pongolle; 2 Laurent Robert; 3 Jean-Pierre Bade; 4 Didier Agathe; 5 Hoarau.

The France coach, Raymond Domenech, appeared on TV show Canal Football Club on Sunday night for an entertaining interrogation at the hands of Christophe Dugarry. "I've always liked Christophe and I liked him as a player, but now he's a journalist, he has to brush up on his facts," said Domenech when accused of playing Eric Abidal at centre-back for the first time in his career during Euro 2008. "People talk to me about communication issues, but I'm talking now, so what's all that about? I'd rather talk about the team but everyone wants to talk about me!"

Dugarry's former team-mate Bixente Lizarazu was also back in the headlines: on the day that fellow full-back Willy Sagnol sadly quit the game for good, Lizarazu was winning gold in the Brazilian Jujitsu European Open in Lisbon. "When I saw the other competitors on Friday with their shaved heads and cauliflower ears, they all looked like killers, and I said to myself, 'What the hell are you doing?'" he said after dispatching two Italians and an Englishman in the Under-76kg category, 35-40 age group.

Perhaps the Le Mans duo Anthony Le Tallec and Ibrahima Camara had seen Liza in action: both men were thrown out of the team's lunch meeting after fighting when Camara had taken Le Tallec's seat. Their row continued in the hotel lobby, and as the team-mates squared up to settle their differences, the coach, Yves Bertucci, waded in and suspended both from the squad. The team could have done with that fighting spirit against Nantes, who beat them 2–0. "We were crap and that simply wasn't good enough," the captain, Mathieu Coutadeur, apologised. Bertucci's job has now gone to Le Mans' sports director, the man behind all their signings, Daniel Jeandupeux, with the ex-coach kept on as assistant.

Elsewhere, goal-shy Rennes and Toulouse played out a predictable 0–0 draw while Valenciennes continued their improvement with a 1–0 win over Nice. At the bottom, Le Havre lost 3–2 to Nancy, their seventh defeat on the spin. France's oldest club look doomed to the drop, but still continue to produce great players from their youth academy. How's this for a starting XI of recent Le Havre graduates? Mandanda, N'Zogbia, (Alou) Diarra, Boumsong, Chimbonda, (Lassana) Diarra, Digard, Dhorasoo, Hoarau, Niang, Sinama-Pongolle. It's a side that might even beat Lyon, on their current form.

Results, Week 22:

PSG 2–0 Caen

Valenciennes 1–0 Nice

Auxerre 0–0 Lorient

Le Havre 2–3 Nancy

Le Mans 0–2 Nantes

Monaco 1–0 Grenoble

Rennes 0–0 Toulouse

Bordeaux 2–2 Lille

Sochaux 1–0 Marseille

Lyon 1–1 Saint-Etienne


Ben Lyttleton

The GuardianTramp

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