Lens lead after night of upsets in French league

22nd August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 21 (AFP) - Lens emerged as surprise new leaders of the French first division Saturday after a series of upsets left the heavyweight title contenders reaching for their headache tablets.

PARIS, Aug 21 (AFP) - Lens emerged as surprise new leaders of the French first division Saturday after a series of upsets left the heavyweight title contenders reaching for their headache tablets.

Mighty Paris Saint Germain were brought to heel by Toulouse, whose 2-1 win left the French capital side still searching for their first win of the campaign.

Newcomers Caen embarrassed Champions League finalists Monaco 1-0, while down on the south coast Nice were holding former European kingpins Marseille to a 1-1 draw.

Lens saw off another promoted side Istres 2-0 to leave them with three other sides - Toulouse, Marseille and Bastia - on seven points but ahead on goal difference.

This quartet could be overtaken by fifth-placed Metz if they manage to beat three time titleholders Lyon to maintain their perfect start of three wins from three in Sunday's only fixture.

PSG's pretensions as serious championship contenders look a little thin after this latest defeat which follows an opening day reverse at Rennes and a 2-2 draw against Caen.

Daniel Moreira put Toulouse ahead in the 55th minute with Eduardo extending their advantage a quarter of an hour later.

Reinaldo's late header offered PSG hope but the Toulouse defence held firm to leave the visitors toiling in 14th place.

PSG's blushes were shared by Monaco who were unable to come up with an answer to a 21st minute strike from Cyrille Watier, a minute after the Caen player had been booked for a foul on Diego Perez. Watier's goal came about after a searing run down the left by Yohan Eudeline.

Auxerre seem to be surviving well enough after star striker Djibril Cisse's move to Liverpool with Guy Roux's men lying sixth after a 2-1 win over Sochaux, their goals on either side of half-time coming from Bonaventure Kalou and Jean-Pascal Mignot.

In Saturday's early game Nice, with two defeats so far, had to endure an injury-time scramble - and a moment of indecision on the part of the referee - before finishing the match thankful of having picked up their first point against Marseille.

Visitors Marseille went ahead through France international Benoit Pedretti who struck a bullet in the 47th minute, only to see Ivorian international midfielder Serge Die level for Nice 15 minutes later from the penalty spot.

After a battling first half Nice found themselves down shortly after the restart when a free kick from 20 metres out by Demetrius Ferreira was badly cleared. Pedretti, who picked up the loose ball, did not waste his chance.

Nice found the opening to get back into the game when Echouafni latched onto a well served ball by Sebastien Roudet only to find himself sandwiched between two defenders.

The referee pointed to the spot, and Die's left-footed shot left Barthez clutching at thin air. Die however was immediately sent off after being cautioned for a second time for his over-ebullient celebrations.

With the game on a knife edge, emotions began to run high. A yellow card was given to Nice midfielder Yoann Bigne for a foul on Bixente Lizarazu, and when Nice coach Gernot Rohr complained over-zealously, he too was exited from the touchline.

Halfway through the sixth minute of added injury time Marseille thought they had the winner when a header from defender Habib Beye from a corner appeared to edge over the line.

However, defender Franco Dolci, guarding goalkeeper Damien Gregorini's near post, somehow managed to flick the ball back to safety with his right foot and the ball was soon cleared upfield before the Marseille players bombarded the referee with claims that it had gone over the line.


Subject: French news

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