Bielsa rocks Marseille as Ligue 1 returns in France

Ligue 1 returned this weekend with PSG picking up where they left off with a 1-0 over Lille. But the action was dominated by the shock resignation of Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Bielsa rocks Marseille as Ligue 1 returns in France
PSG players celebrate after Lucas scores their winning goal against Lille. Photo: AFP

Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne both suffered Ligue 1 opening day defeats on Sunday as French football was still suffering the shockwaves of Marcelo Bielsa's resignation as Marseille coach.

In the weekend's final match, last season's runners-up Lyon were held to a 0-0 draw by Brittany side Lorient at their Stade Gerland.

At the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Willy Sagnol's men were 10 minutes from victory before Nicolas De Preville cancelled out Wahbi Khazri's 41st minute opener and Theoson Jordan Siebatcheu grabbed a dramatic 88th minute winner for Reims.

“It was above all two terrible defensive errors that cost us the points today,” said Sagnol.

“I saw a team who were flat, who didn't want to get forward and who didn't have the desire, after the first goal for us which was a bit lucky, to kill off the match,” added the former French international defender.

“It's sad because it was the first match of the season at home and we start with a defeat but we're just going to have to work hard this week and get ready for Saint-Etienne with what I hope will be more desire from the players to try and get a result at their stadium which is never easy,” added Sagnol.

At Toulouse, Loic Perrin gave Saint-Etienne a 17th minute lead before the home side turned matters around.

Martin Braithwaite levelled the match 10 minutes after Perrin's opener before star striker Wissam Ben Yedder put away the winner, eight minutes into the second half.

Toulouse finished the match with 10 men when Aleksandar Pesic was shown a straight red card with four minutes left.

Lacazette blow for Lyon

In the weekend's final match, Lyon ran into an inspired goalkeeper in the form of Lorient's Parisian Benjamin Lecomte who defied Hubert Fournier's side time and time again.

On another down note for Lyon, star striker Alexandre Lacazette was substituted in the second half with what appeared to be a back problem.

Meanwhile, Bielsa's shock exit at Marseille after Saturday's opening 1-0 defeat at home to Caen sparked a bitter war of words between the Argentine and his former employers.

Former European champions Marseille accused the Argentine of trying to hold them hostage over his new contract.

A strongly-worded club statement claimed: “Marseille possess a sufficiently rich history to refuse to surrender to the rule of one man”.

The French giants insisted they wouldn't be “held prisoner by a man who places his personal interests high above those of the club”.

The attack on the man known as 'El Loco' (the mad man) came less than 24 hours after he had delivered what captain Steve Mandanda described as his “hammer blow”.

Bielsa blamed last minute changes to his contract for the decision which left Marseille president Vincent Labrune dumbfounded.

“I am, like all the supporters, dazed by Marcelo Bielsa's shock decision,” Labrune declared in a statement.

“However, we take note of this decision which places the club in a difficult place having started the new season with a home defeat.”

He confirmed that one of Bielsa's assistants, Franck Passi, would step up as caretaker coach.

Bielsa, who had been in charge since May 2014, wrote in his resignation letter: “I am sad and frustrated.

“I cannot accept the situation of instability at the club.

“We had reached an agreement on a contract extension for 2016-2017, which was missing just a signature.”

Bielsa said he had met Wednesday with the club's chief executive Philippe Perez and Igor Levin, Louis-Dreyfus's lawyer.

“They wanted to change the contract,” he complained.

“I took this final decision as working together requires a minimum of trust, which we do not have.”

Bielsa, who guided Chile to the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup, was at pains to point out his abrupt exit had nothing to do with money, revealing he had turned down a new deal multiplying his salary threefold.

Champions Paris Saint-Germain opened the Ligue 1 season on Friday with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Lille.

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French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage

French prosecutors on Friday called for a 15-year prison sentence for one of two Russians accused of beating a British supporter during Euro 2016, an attack that left him with brain injuries.

French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage
Russian fans light flares at the match against England in 2016.. Photo: AFP

One prosecutor, Christophe Raffin, asked for the “legal maximum… between 14 and 15 years” for Pavel Kossov, who is accused of throwing the first punch at 55-year-old Andrew Bache.

Bache was injured in the violence that broke out before England played Russia in the southern French port city of Marseille on June 11th, 2016.

The second Russian on trial in Aix-en-Provence, Mikhail Ivkine, stands accused of throwing a chair at the victim, with prosecutors asking for a potential suspended sentence of up to five years.

He has claimed he was defending himself.

“No, it wasn't legitimate self-defence, it was illegitimate use of force against Andrew Bache,” Raffin said of the violence.


Police give emergency aid to Andrew Bache following clashes in the city of Marseille. Photo: AFP

The prosecutors said the Russians were part of a group of about 150 men, many with martial arts training, who wrought havoc in Marseille.

Bache, from Portsmouth in southern England, has no memory of the events and is too frail to attend the trial.

His son Harry, who nurses his father, is representing him in court.