Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira occupied their own intensely involved worlds for almost two hours but, when their first taste of temporary enmity was done, they could look one another in the eye. Both men have influenced far better matches than this Derb

Thierry Henry sees Monaco hope amid VAR drama of draw with Vieira’s Nice

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  • 2019-01-29 02:30:14 10 months ago
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Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira occupied their own intensely involved worlds for almost two hours but, when their first taste of temporary enmity was done, they could look one another in the eye. Both men have influenced far better matches than this Derby de La Côte d’Azur, which conjured up a steady enough stream of flashpoints but laid bare the dearth of quality they must attempt to correct. In the end a draw between two winners kept everyone broadly happy and, in the case of Henry and Monaco, ensured the pressure of a relegation battle gets no graver for now.

“It was bizarre,” said Henry of coming up against his ally of so many battles with Arsenal and France. “When I saw him coming out of the dressing room, it was bizarre. We went up the steps together; we used to play together and here we were, about to play against each other. So we gave a nod to that but then we got lost in the match.”

That was presumably what Henry was talking about behind a nowadays obligatory shielding hand during that walk, which continued as they entered the pitch behind their teams. Vieira could not suppress a grin; the two looked more like convivial dog-walking companions than dear friends about to redefine brieflythe terms of their relationship. Soon the dugouts loomed into view; a hug and a flurry of camera flashes later it was time to put frivolities on hold.

For Henry the fixture was stacked with significance beyond high-profile reunions and the imperative to defeat a local rival. The rancour surrounding his 19th-placed side has hardly abated since he arrived, in contrast to the quietly satisfying progress Nice have made in the top half under Vieira, and the situation was begging for a performance in the image of his playing days.

French forward Allan Saint-Maximin dribbles past Monaco’s Jemerson before giving Nice the lead.

“It’s maybe too early to say that – you will have a better idea later,” a reasonably content Vieira said when asked if the sides had reflected their coaches. It would be a stretch to say Monaco did that to the letter but there were glimpses of a team designed to play with speed and ambition, even if they were dealt a hand by the dismissal of Nice’s Ihsan Sacko in first-half added time. They deserved the equaliser headed just over the line by Benoît Badiashile five minutes after the interval, puncturing the resolve of a Nice side that, moulded from the back by Vieira, finds goals at either end to be a rarity.

“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do before with the team I had,” Henry said. “You saw in the past three games [including 1-1 draws with Rennes and Marseille] how I like to play: wingers high and wide, passing the ball on the ground, putting pressure up front.”

It is little secret that he has been working with a hand tied behind his back, cajoling a team stripped of the tyros that buccaneered around Europe two seasons ago. Eight of his starting outfielders here were 23 or below, a situation exacerbated by an injury crisis that is slowly easing, and the balance has been all wrong.

Cesc Fàbregas is among four new signings intended to correct that but, two hours before the start, he could be found in the labyrinthine depths of this arena giving an introductory press conference rather than heeding pre-match instructions. Players who had not been signed by 7 December, the date from which this fixture was postponed, were not eligible and the youngsters would have to be enlisted again.

All the same, they emerged admirably from a game that threatened to encapsulate their troubles. When Allan Saint-Maximin ran through to score on the half-hour, capitalising on sloppy play from Youssef Aït Bennasser and drawing a frustrated reaction from Henry, the script looked wearily familiar. It seemed an even crueller twist had been added 15 minutes from time when, with the game poised at 1-1 and Monaco now asking constant questions, Nice were awarded a penalty via the game’s third VAR review. Diego Benaglio saved Saint-Maximin’s kick and, while the substitute Radamel Falcao struck a post later, by the close it appeared some fortune had come Henry’s way at last.

He may need it, and it is an unfamiliar thing to say of someone who has traditionally ruled through excellence. “One thing about Thierry is that he is a winner, a competitor, and that’s one thing you will never be able to take away from him,” Fàbregas had said before taking his seat upstairs. “That’s why I know we are in safe hands.” Henry has always possessed the capacity to set onlookers agog; maintaining that aura in Monaco might be his greatest feat yet.

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Thierry Henry sees Monaco hope amid VAR drama of draw with Vieira’s Nice

European roundup: PSG win 9-0, new low for Henry and Dortmund march on

The runaway Ligue 1 leaders, Paris Saint-Germain, avenged their League Cup loss to Guingamp by demolishing the Brittany side 9-0.

PSG prevailed following hat-tricks from Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé, a Neymar double and one from Thomas Meunier. PSG’s only downside was the loss of the influential Marco Verratti to an ankle injury after 13 minutes.

Nine days after being knocked out of the League Cup quarter-finals by Guingamp at the Parc des Princes PSG were keen to exact revenge. Neymar opened the scoring in the 12th minute after collecting a superb through-ball by Dani Alves and beating Marc-Aurèle Caillard.

Mbappé made it 2-0 eight minutes before the break following a one-two with Neymar. The France striker then doubled his tally on the stroke of half-time after Cavani dispossessed Félix Eboa Eboa.

The Uruguay striker made it 4-0 in the 59th minute when he tapped in Juan Bernat’s pass and added another eight minutes later following Ángel Di María’s cross. Two minutes after that Neymar, set up by Mbappé, found the net again.

Guingamp’s ordeal was far from over, though. Cavani beat Caillard from Layvin Kurzawa’s cross in the 76th, five minutes before Mbappé also secured a hat-trick after collecting Cavani’s through-ball. The defender Meunier rounded off the humiliation with a shot from inside the box. Mbappé, Neymar and Cavani have now scored a total of 44 goals in Ligue 1, with Mbappé leading the scoring charts with 17.

Thierry Henry’s Monaco fell to a disastrous 5-1 home defeat against Strasbourg. The hosts, who have not won at home this season, were looking to build on the draw they managed against Patrick Vieira’s Nice in midweek but had defender Naldo sent off after seven minutes.

Ludovic Ajorque and Adrien Thomasson put the visitors two up after 17 minutes. Radamel Falcao pulled one back on 22 but Ibrahima Sissoko (63 minutes) and Ajorque with his second (68) sealed it.

Strasbourg were reduced to 10 men a minute later with the dismissal of Stefan Mitrovic but still Youssouf Fofana still added a fifth in added time. Monaco are second-bottom of Ligue 1.

Luka Modric celebrates sealing Real Madrid’s La Liga victory over Sevilla.

Real Madrid breathed new life into their stuttering season as they secured a 2-0 La Liga victory at home to Sevilla. Having wasted any number of chances, they were on course to drop further points and leave their manager, Santiago Solari, under increasing pressure, until Casemiro brilliantly curled in from long range in the 78th minute and then Luka Modric added a late second.

While they are still truly to join the title race led by Barcelona, the three points maintained the pressure on Atlético Madrid, who later won 3-0 at Huesca. Real’s victory moved them ahead of Sevilla, who fell to fourth.

With Sevilla content to attack on the counter from the outset, the hosts dominated possession but struggled to create chances.

The second half began in similar fashion, but Modric began to exert greater influence and, as he sent a dipping effort into the side netting on the hour mark, the opening goal felt imminent.

Dani Ceballos struck the crossbar from 30 yards before Casemiro gave Real Madrid the lead. Modric then sealed victory in stoppage time. Finding himself in space in the penalty area, the Croatian drew the goalkeeper before curling the ball past inside the near post.

Leipzig’s goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi can only watch Axel Witsel’s winner for Borussia Dortmund go past him.

The Bundesliga leaders, Borussia Dortmund narrowly, beat RB Leipzig 1-0 thanks to Axel Witsel’s 19th-minute winner to protect their six-point lead over the champions Bayern Munich as the German top flight resumed following the winter break.

Though missing their in-form captain Marco Reus, who suffered a ligament injury in training on Friday, Dortmund managed to earn their eighth win in their last nine league matches, helped by Roman Bürki’s string of fine saves.

It was also Leipzig’s first home loss of the season and Dortmund’s first league win there since their opponents were promoted to the Bundesliga a few seasons ago.

“We are extremely satisfied. It was as expected a very hard game. Leipzig came very close two or three times but we won in the end,” said Dortmund’s coach, Lucien Favre. “We played really well as a team. The first game of the year is always difficult, so it was important to win here today. Roman Bürki was outstanding.”

Roma survived a second-half fightback to end Torino’s unbeaten Serie A away record with a 3-2 win thanks to Stephan El Shaarawy’s late goal at the Stadio Olimpico. A Nicolò Zaniolo strike and an Aleksander Kolarov penalty gave the hosts a comfortable half-time lead but Torino drew level through strikes by Tomás Rincón and Cristian Ansaldi before El Shaarawy secured the points for Roma in the 73rd minute.

Strasbourg were in the fifth tier in 2012. Now they are fifth in Ligue 1

Savoir-faire does not translate directly from French. The closest English equivalent would be “know-how” but the French phrase carries a sense of graceful adaptability, an ability to respond seamlessly and appropriately to any situation. Few teams in football embody savoir-faire more than Strasbourg under Thierry Laurey. Having fought back from liquidation and relegation to the sprawling fifth tier in 2011, the Alsace club are edging towards Europe and perhaps even silverware thanks to their versatile and intelligent coach. Their 5-1 win at Monaco on Saturday, which takes them up to fifth in Ligue 1, is simply their latest eye-catching achievement.

The thought of playing in Europe would have been a dumbfounding dream for Strasbourg supporters throughout the last decade. After being relegated in 2008, the club plunged down the divisions amid spiralling debts. Former player Marc Keller stepped in and took over the club, but they resumed business as fifth-tier amateurs in 2011.

Two straight titles took them back to the third tier, where they boasted record crowds – one gate in the fourth tier even exceeded 20,000. However, a 16th-placed finish in the third tier in 2013-14 seemingly meant relegation back to French football’s wilderness. But their luck started to change. Financial irregularities at other clubs gave Strasbourg a reprieve and, after winning two more titles in the next three seasons, they were back in Ligue 1. Astonishingly, they won the Ligue 2 title in 2016-17 as a newly promoted club.

Laurey joined Strasbourg at the start of that remarkable promotion campaign. Prior to guiding minnows Gazélec Ajaccio into Ligue 1 for the first time in their history in 2015, success had long been illusive for the manager. He even spent 21 months unemployed after leaving Amiens in 2009. Despite the hard times, he never considered changing careers. “I remember telling my wife: ‘This is what I want to do and I’ll continue.’ It’s hard, the phone doesn’t ring, relationships at home are tense and then one day it starts again.”

Strasbourg head coach Thierry Laurey joined the club in 2016.

Last season, Strasbourg’s first campaign back in Ligue 1 for nearly a decade, was dramatic. Their 2-1 win over PSG at the typically boisterous Stade de la Meinau was the highlight – along with the 3-2 victory over Lyon on the penultimate weekend of the campaign that secured their league status after a worrying 11-game run without a win.

Laurey has built Strasbourg’s success on vigilance, adaptability and pragmatism. His players are well drilled and organised, yet fluid and capable of achieving results by varying means. He was unapologetic after a stoic, bus-parking goalless draw away at the freewheeling Lille in November. “When I play someone who is superior to me, I try to be smart. We knew that if we left spaces we would be in danger. We are Strasbourg, the day we call ourselves Chelsea or AC Milan we’ll play differently.”

He adopted a similar tone after wrestling another point from PSG in December. “We knew we were going to defend. It’s not a sign of weakness. I am very happy to take a point.” Laurey exudes an honest and intense persona, like his club, “I wanted to be at a club with lots of enthusiasm, fervour and passion,” he explained before he extended his contract in December. “And my wish is more than fulfilled.”

Laurey often reminds his players not to get carried away. “The goal remains the same,” he said after a 2-1 win at Toulouse in January. “To stay up by doing better than last season. We would like the bottom three to be even further away. We’re managing matches better, we have a more mature team. We have the second best attack in Ligue 1, this is satisfying.”

He even remained cautious after the 5-1 mauling of Monaco – Strasbourg’s sixth win in a row in all competitions. “We lost the ball easily,” he said. “There are ways to improve the team’s performance. I was not happy at half-time because we let Monaco back in the game.” Victories over better resourced sides have become something of a specialty for Laurey, so much so that Strasbourg’s only two defeats since late September have come against promoted teams Nîmes and Reims.

Their win over Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue quarter-final earlier this month may prove especially momentous. After PSG’s defeat to Guingamp, Strasbourg are the highest ranked team left in the competition and perhaps even favourites to win their first major trophy in 15 years and the accompanying place in European – assuming qualification does not come via the league. They are the second highest scorers in the league behind PSG so a Champions League spot is not fanciful.

Wherever their season takes them, Strasbourg will not get carried away. “Whoever gets drunk will quickly sober up,” Laurey said of his players’ joy at beating PSG last season. His constant drive for improvement and mastery of savoir-faire will see to that.

Ligue 1 talking points

Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé take a ball each after they both scored hat-tricks in PSG’s 9-0 win over Guingamp.

What now for PSG? Yes, a 9-0 win over Guingamp is a nice rebuttal to the leaders’ elimination from the Coupe de la Ligue last week, but an ankle injury suffered by Marco Verratti took much if not all of the joy from the result. The Italian’s status is still to be determined; his absence could be as brief as two weeks, but Thomas Tuchel has also ominously hinted at a more lengthy time away. Given that PSG are already saddled with the uncomfortable situation of Adrien Rabiot, and the sometime reinvention of Marquinhos and Julian Draxler as central midfielders, the club’s summer transfer policy continues to undermine their potential progress. Idrissa Gueye and Leandro Paredes have both been linked but there is no doubt that should either of the pair arrive this month, PSG will undoubtedly be paying over the odds, again perhaps limiting their future options.

If it is not Memphis, it is Memphis. His chameleonic nature was once again on show this weekend as Lyon won at Saint-Étienne. After an indifferent first half, in which he flubbed a presentable chance early on, he moved from centre-forward to the left wing after Moussa Dembélé was brought on from the bench and he started to impress, combining well with Ferland Mendy, giving Lyon genuine width and putting Loïc Perrin under serious pressure. Lyon have looked decent at times with Depay as a centre-forward, but an attacking side with Depay, Nabil Fékir and the former Celtic forward would give any opponent serious concerns, and allow Lyon to balance potential fixture congestion while still maintaining their place in the top three. More food for thought for Bruno Génésio. It was surely to the manager’s great relief to see a committed performance in the Rhône-Alpes derby.

Quick guide

Ligue 1 results

Ligue 1 results

PSG 9-0 Guingamp
Lille 2-1 Amiens
Saint-Étienne 1-2 Lyon
Monaco 1-5 Strasbourg
Rennes 0-0 Montpellier
Caen 0-1 Marseille
Reims 1-1 Nice
Bordeaux 1-0 Dijon
Nîmes 0-1 Toulouse
Angers 1-0 Nantes

Ligue 1 table

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 PSG 19 52 53
2 Lille 21 13 40
3 Lyon 21 10 37
4 St Etienne 21 7 36
5 Strasbourg 21 12 32
6 Montpellier 20 10 32
7 Marseille 20 4 31
8 Nice 21 -3 31
9 Rennes 21 2 30
10 Bordeaux 20 1 28
11 Reims 21 -3 28
12 Nimes 20 -2 26
13 Toulouse 21 -10 25
14 Nantes 21 -2 23
15 Angers 20 -2 23
16 Caen 21 -9 18
17 Amiens 21 -18 18
18 Dijon 20 -16 17
19 Monaco 21 -17 15
20 Guingamp 21 -29 14
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