Who said French football was boring?! This evenings opening round of French Ligue 1 games proved this wrong with the highlight being Caen's victory over Olympique Marseille (OM).
Anyone with any knowledge of the French game would surely have made OM favourites on the grounds that they won the championship last year whilst Caen were fighting at the top of Ligue 2 for promotion to the top league. On top of this the Marseille club are the most valuable France has ever known.
Perhaps those with a little more nous about French football would not have written Caen off right away. The club topped Ligue 2 last season and have been busy in the transfer market. In fact two of the players bought in the summer featured tonight (Kandia Traore and Damien Marcq).
The game started off strongly with both sides looking to get the other hand early on. However, after a rough challenge by Tafforeau on 10 minutes which earned the Frenchman a yellow card, the game began to settle into a rhythm.
As the game progressed it soon became obvious that Caen were no pushovers and began to build some nice attacks (most notably through Mollo on the left) which made the OM defence look vulnerable. At the other end, Marseille lacked the same penetration as the Caen back line held strong. During the first half it was Caen who looked most likely to break the deadlock, particularly when, on 38 minutes, Mandanda was put under pressure as a shot flew past his right-hand post. Nevertheless the two teams went in at the break goalless and this was probably a fair scoreline.
Some might have expected OM to come back into the match during the second period and take control but the newly promoted side kept up the pressure, particularly through the middle of the field and this is where the first goal came from. As the diagram shows, Seube was an important defensive player when OM were on the attack but as soon as Caen had the ball, the 30-year old looked to move forward through the midfield. On 53 minutes he did exactly this and then drove a shot home from 30 yards.
Caen looked good value for their lead even after OM manager Didier Deschamps made the attacking double substitution which saw Ben Arfa and Samassa take to the pitch. Marseille kept pushing though and the equaliser came when the pair combined and a lovely ball from Ben Arfa bounced nicely for Samassa and the striker from Mali bundled the ball home.
With 10 minutes to go, most newly promoted teams would have tried to hold on for the draw against the current champions but not Caen who brought on Nabab as a fresh pair of legs and kept the same formation. It was in the end an attack down the right that led to the goal and as a tackle came in near the by-line, other subsitute, Yatabaré looped the ball across the face of the goal perfectly for El-Arabi to power a header in. Mandanda could do nothing about it but questions will be asked as to where exactly the marking was.
So a bit of luck with the goal which eventually won the game for Caen but for me this was nothing short of what the team from North-West France deserved. Meanwhile, if OM and Deschamps are going to retain the championship they will have to do much better than this.
Man of the Match: Nicolas Seube
It couldn't realistically be anyone else after the man who has played for Caen his entire career made run after run which aided both the midfield and attack. His natural position at the base of midfield made Seube the anchor of the team and provided a perfect launchpad for attacks. It only seemed fitting that he should get the opening goal and all the better that it was such a spectacular one!