Nancy spoil Lille’s stadium opening party
Kalou (L) heads the ball to score
LILLE, France ● Lille’s stadium opening party fell flat on Friday when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Nancy despite dominating the Ligue 1 tussle.
Former Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou scored four minutes before halftime to earn a point for the triple French champions after Djamel Bakar had put Nancy ahead against the run of play.
Nancy had Benjamin Moukandjo Bile sent off for a second bookable offence in the 80th minute.
A capacity 50,000-crowd packed the new Grand Stade Lille Metropole, the fourth home in the club’s 68-year history, but eventually left frustrated.
Lille, the 2011 double winners and third in Ligue 1 last season, had almost all the possession in the first half but made little of it.
Nancy went ahead from their first real attack when Bakar curled a 25-metre shot past keeper Mickael Landreau after 33 minutes.
Marseille deny Barton swap deal
French Ligue 1 club Marseille have firmly denied suggestions that Queen’s Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton could be set for a season-long loan move to the club in exchange for Cameroonian midfielder Stephane Mbia.
“A swap deal involving these two players is absolutely not envisaged,” an OM official told AFP on Friday after the story was broken by UK television station Sky Sports News.
Earlier, Marseille coach Elie Baup said he “no comment to make” on any possible switch but asked about Barton’s turbulent past off the pitch — he was jailed for six months in 2008 for affray — he said: “Custody? That can happen to the best of us!”
Ivory Coast international Kalou, who joined in the close season after helping Chelsea to their Champions League final triumph in May, headed the equaliser from Marvin Martin’s cross.
That made up for an earlier miss when Kalou failed to hit the target after being put clean through on goal.
The result left both teams with four points from their opening two games.
Paris Saint-Germain head to Corsica to face Ajaccio on Sunday looking to register their first win of the new campaign after having to settle for a point against Lorient in their season-opener last weekend.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have grabbed all the summer headlines and were seen as certain champions before a ball had even been kicked, but they looked anything but nailed-on title favourites for the first 45 minutes against Lorient before debutant Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to earn a 2-2 draw and spare blushes at the Parc des Princes.
Even this early into his PSG career, Ibrahimovic’s presence is vital.
“Zlatan is a great player. He has just arrived and is already behaving like one of the leaders,” said midfielder Clement Chantome with a sense of awe this week.
“He helped us get back into the game against Lorient and some of the things he does in training are superb. Having him here is clearly a major plus, less so for opposition defences.”
The capital club are hoping that the Swede will recover from an ankle injury that kept him out of his country’s midweek friendly defeat to Brazil to make the game on the Mediterranean island.
But Chantome added that there can be no excuse for dropping more points this weekend.
“With the new dimension that this club has taken on, we are now obliged to win every game,” he said.
“We are still learning how to play together, but the signs were there in the second half against Lorient that we are getting there.”
Opponents Ajaccio won at Nice last Saturday to move on to one point after beginning the campaign with minus two as a punishment for trouble at their final home match of last season.
And the islanders have made headlines this week with their pursuit of controversial Romanian striker Adrian Mutu.
The former Juventus and Chelsea player, who was sacked by the London club in 2004 after testing positive for cocaine, has agreed terms with Ajaccio but his proposed transfer from Serie B outfit Cesena will not be completed before the visit of PSG.
Lille, seen by many as the best bet to challenge PSG in this season’s Ligue 1 title race, play their first game in their impressive new home when they face Nancy on Friday evening.
There will be a sell-out crowd of just over 50,000 at the Grand Stade, almost treble their average attendance at their old home and a clear sign of the northern club’s potential.
“The new stadium has helped us bring in new players,” says coach Rudi Garcia, who has been able to attract France playmaker Marvin Martin and former Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou this summer.
“From speaking to the likes of Kalou and Martin I know that the new stadium had a major impact in their decision.”
“For the opposition, coming here and playing in front of at least 40,000 Lille fans, I think that will have an impact on them. It could be an extra asset for us.”
After coming so close to beating PSG at the Parc des Princes on the opening day for the second year running, Lorient entertain champions Montpellier on their artificial surface in Brittany.
Montpellier — who lost in Lorient en route to their stunning title triumph last season — will again be without injured duo Anthony Mounier and Younes Belhanda, as well as the suspended Jamel Saihi and Marco Estrada.
Lyon, who have agreed a deal to sign Serbia defender Milan Bisevac from PSG, will hope to make it two wins out of two when they play host to promoted Troyes, while Marseille are in action at home to Sochaux and Bordeaux face Rennes on Sunday.