It’s another one for the midweek newspaper stand debates, the broadcast analysis, the night pub arguments, as another weekend of football has come and gone, and with its departure, leaves some talking points, as per usual:
Marseille’s experience may well be in key in Ligue 1 Champions League battle
It wasn’t the best night for Lyon at the Stade Louis II on Sunday, as Les Gones threw a two-goal lead at fellow Champions League football hopeful – 10-man Monaco to lose 3-2 and drop to fourth.
It was a game that once again highlighted the youthfulness of Bruno Genesio’s side, entertaining and enterprising when going forward, but not enough nous and mettle, especially when it comes to game management, or showing sturdiness away at a top side. Same could also be said for their victors Monaco, the Ligue 1 champions’ habit of selling their top players and rebuilding with younger blood, while bringing profit and excitement, will leave them short on men who have the bottle to go through the toughest of times, especially when the pressure is on.
The other team chasing football with Europe’s elite are Marseille. They saw off Metz this weekend and are up to second place. Unlike Monaco (average of 19) and Lyon (23), Rudi Garcia’s team boast an average of 27 in their squad, players with the experience who have survived crunch time on a fair number of occasions. That policy might hinder them in the long-term, but as of now, their possession of wiser men might just successfully aid their pursuit of that last automatic UCL spot.
Gross is key for Brighton
It’s no coincidence that Brighton’s form dropped at the end of last year once Pascal Gross went through a rough patch, the only win they managed in December, against Watford, was due to the German’s fine form. On Saturday, Gross was back to his best, scoring one, setting up another, running the West Ham side ragged, as Brighton scored three goals in a game for the first time since October.
Manager Chris Hughton praised his playmaker’s performance against the Hammers, and with the season entering crunch time (12 games to go), he’ll hope Gross’ form soars, as the benefit would reap rich rewards.
Genoa show mettle despite VAR interference
Genoa spent most of Monday night’s game at Lazio on the back foot, defending all they could, and at the start of the second half, they broke forward and nicked a lead in the form of Goran Pandev. That lasted only four minutes, however, and after Lazio levelled it was a case when they would go in front as Genoa had their backs to the wall once more, until Diego Laxalt wriggled free of Martin Caceres and put the visitors in front once more; or so it seemed. Three minutes after Laxalt found the net, the increasingly famous (or infamous) Video Assistant Referee decided to rule against the goal, seeming to suggest either an offside that never was, or handball, which also never was.
It was another re-enactment of one the reasons people have been clamouring for an end to VAR, the siphoning of emotion of the game, but Genoa wouldn’t go on stewing about it, and in second minute of stoppage time, Laxalt and the Rossoblu would get their just reward, the Uruguayan winger heading home to give Davide Ballardini’s team the points, and ease relegation fears.
Watford gain rewards for outplaying champions
It looked like another case of Watford and their inability to manage games once again, as on Monday night, after dominating 10-man Chelsea, the Hornets let another lead slip, with Eden Hazard equalising for the champions in the 81st minute. But Javi Gracia and his side wouldn’t let their heads drop, as in previous occasions, as they came right back in the face of the Blues, adding three goals in some eight minutes, for a wonderful 4-1 win.
Much has been made of Gracia attempting to make the side sterner at the back. On the evidence of this win, it’s still a work in progress, but at least they seem to finally know how to respond to what looks like a sucker punch.