Monaco return to top despite PSG win

Only goal difference separates leaders Monaco from Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Ligue 1 after the weekend's action. Newly-promoted Nantes, meanwhile, kept up their impressive start to the season in a firey Breton derby.

Monaco return to top despite PSG win
Only goal difference separates leaders Monaco from Paris Saint-Germain, at the top of Ligue 1 after the weekend's action, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic lined for PSG against Toulouse. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Monaco moved back to the summit of Ligue 1 on Sunday despite being held to a 1-1 at Reims as the momentum swung again at the top in France.

After Antoine Devaux had given the Champagne-region outfit a shock fourth-minute lead with a close range header, Portuguese international Joao Moutinho opened his season's scoring account with a brilliant free-kick that flew inside the near post nine minutes later.

Up until Sunday, Colombian Radamel Falcao and Frenchman Emmanuelle Riviere had scored all of Monaco's goals in the league.

Reims almost snatched a shock winner in the 86th minute but Togo international Floyd Ayite was denied by Monaco's Croatian 'keeper Danijel Subasic despite being clear on goal.

In a feisty finale, Reims had Atlia Turan sent off for a second bookable offence with two minutes left, but Monaco were unable to capitalise.

Claudio Ranieri's men however, have seen their two-point cushion at the top slashed to goal difference over Paris Saint-Germain who defeated Toulouse 2-0 on Saturday, as both clubs ended the weekend's action with identical records of five victories and three draws.

"We gave up a stupid goal early in the match and it's the second time we've started badly," explained Monaco captain Eric Abidal.

"It was important to be collective and efficient and we didn't do that.  Reims played well and tryed to catch us on the counter but we just weren't clinical in front of goal.

"Even when they were down to ten men, they still created chances."

Marseille are in third on 17 points with Lille and Nice in fourth and fifth respectively, just ahead of Nantes and Saint-Etienne.

Promoted Nantes continued their fine start to the campaign earlier on Sunday with a display reminiscent of the style that made them eight-time champions as they defeated Rennes 3-1.

The afternoon kick-off at Rennes's Stade de la Route de l'Orient produced a feisty derby that was eventually taken over by the 'Canaries' thanks to strikes from Filip Djordjevic, Serge Gakpe and an injury time clincher from Lucas Deaux.

"We had a very good first half and produced good play and created good chances," said their 50-year-old Armenian-French coach Michel Der Zakarian.

"We should have been 3-0 up at half-time because we should have had a clear penalty and after we had a black spell at the start of the second half," he added.

His slick passing formation outwitted their hosts in midfield and which led to Djordjevic's headed opener after just 17 minutes.

In front of a crowd of some 25,000, Rennes, who suffered only their second league defeat, pushed forward in search of an equaliser only to slip further behind with a brilliant Nantes second on the stroke of half-time.

Togo international Gakpe cut into the box before turning two defenders inside out and then hooking a low shot around Rennes 'keeper Benoit Costil and into the far corner.

Nelson Oliveira then broke through for Rennes on 55 minutes after the ball pin-balled into his path and he made no mistake with his one-on-one duel against Nantes number one Remy Riou to pull it back to 2-1.

Der Zakarian's men then had to endure a nerve shredding finale before Lucas Deaux finished off a counter-attack deep into injury time to make the scoreline 3-1.

Fabrizio Ravanelli's Ajaccio side followed their first win of the season against Lyon in midweek with a hard earned 1-1 draw at home to 2012 champions Montpellier.

The Corsican side went behind when Ajaccio-born midfielder Remy Cabella converted a ninth minute penalty before grabbing a share of the points with Ronald Zubar's header 10 minutes before the break.

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French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region

The French city of Nantes is to hold a referendum on exiting the Pays-de-la-Loire region and becoming part of Brittany instead.

French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region
Photo: AFP

On Friday the town council of Nantes voted in favour of requesting the French government organise a referendum so local people can have their say about whether they wish to remain in the Pays-de-la-Loire region or become part of Brittany – a region that many say the town has more historic and cultural connections to.

The vote on Friday was carried by 56 votes and concerns whether the département of Loire-Atlantique – which contains Nantes – should move regions.

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The vote follows a petition in 2018 which gathered 105,000 signatures.

Nantes mayor Johanna Rolland said: “This strong citizen mobilisation cannot be ignored. It reflects the aspiration of our fellow citizens to be consulted to a greater extent, in a context of essential revitalisation of our democracy.”

The desire of people in the Loire-Atlantique to become Breton isn't new.
The départment was part of Brittany until World War II, when it was separated and made part of the neighbouring region by the Vichy government. That region eventually became the Pays-de-la-Loire in 1955.
The issue has been simmering since then and pro-Breton voices have become louder in recent years as they hope to take advantage of a law that allows départments to chose which region they belong to via a referendum.
The town, which is the historic seat of the Dukes of Brittany, also declared its intention to  “set up a permanent pluralist body to engage in a genuine consultation with the State on the organisation of this referendum, organise an in-depth debate on the issues and consequences of a redistribution in order to feed the citizen debate, and formulate proposals to strengthen cooperation between Nantes and the other Breton territories”. 
However the referendum will have to be approved by both the national government and the regional authorities.

France's regions were reorganised in 2016 and several were merged to create the current 13 regions of mainland France.

Brittany currently covers four départements – Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère and Morbihan – while Pays-de-la-Loire covers Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée. Nantes is currently the largest town in the region.