My main wish for the weekend is that the 08.27 from Lyon Part Dieu to Lille departs and arrives on time. If it does, I can get the 12.05 (French time) from Lille to St Pancras, arrive in time to make it back home to drop bags, get to the pub for a slug of crap wine, and most important to be there to cheer Sir Chris on his return. We cheered him out and I want to be there to cheer him back in. But if the 08.27 doesn’t run to schedule .... When I booked the tickets I thought it might be a close call, but at the time the risk of being a bit late for Plymouth didn’t seem so important. Events, dear boy, events.
The week in Lyon got off to a good start. I had three wishes then: pastis at Croix Rousse (which was pretty much guaranteed), glorious victory at Sheff Wed, and a win for Lyon Duchere. It proved to be two out of three (and if I were being honest I would have sacrificed the two for the third). I’ve missed the two games of the Peacock Charlton managerial era so can’t comment on them, but Saturday evening produced a thoroughly entertaining contest between Duchere and Sochaux B, albeit one played out in front of a disappointingly small crowd.
Sochaux are currently mid-table in France’s equivalent of The Premiership and the first thing that strikes you about their reserve team is that they’re bloody big. It seems to be a familiar theme when Duchere mix it with the big teams’ second strings (of which there seem to be four in CFA B, including this year Paris-SG but not Olympique Lyonnais). We missed the first 10 minutes, having been glued to the BBC site in the hope of a late winner at Hillsborough, and arrived to groans from the crowd as Sochaux took an early lead. What was apparent from the early play was that Sochaux had a couple of forwards who were bigger, stronger and faster than their opponents. If there was space behind the defenders, all they needed to do was knock it forward and bulldoze their way through. And although Duchere had weapons of their own, especially a very sprightly if erratic winger, there was no real surprise that they fell further behind. Their excellent keeper of recent years seemed to be missing and the new guy was also, well erratic. He pulled off a blinding save to turn away a shot for a corner, but when the ball was half-cleared it fell nicely for the Sochaux guy to volley it back. There should have been no problems, but the Duchere keeper did a Carson/Green and let the shot pass under his body.
However, we all know that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead and as Sochaux started to knock the ball around in defence with little intention they seemed to relax, believing the job was done. Come on, draw your own parallels, although perhaps they were just getting cold as without ballboys play was not exactly continuous. Whatever, before the break Sochaux played a pass too many and said nippy winger latched on to the ball and fairly rifled it low into the net.
So, 1-2 at the break, but it still looked as though Sochaux could score more at will. The next goal would prove crucial. They had the chances to score it early in the second half, but a combination of slack finishing and good fortune for Duchere kept the game alive. Despite their air of assurance Duchere were causing Sochaux some problems and the crowd’s spirits were surprisingly lifted when a silly tackle in the box, on a Duchere player going away from goal, resulted in a penalty. I’ve seen Curtis, Hales, Mendonca and Jackson (and others) put them away from the spot, but I swear I’ve never seen a better penalty. Drilled shot into the top corner. (Note on penalties: I cannot for the life of me understand a forward not wanting to take them; Killer wasn’t a great penalty-taker but he knew he’d score more times than not. It’s understandable that any team has a designated penalty-taker who might not be one of the forwards, in our case Jackson; but for me Benson and Anyinsah declining to take one even in a shoot-out is disappointing. If they’re not confident in their ability to score from the spot something is wrong. Chris, make them practise until they drop.)
Sochaux seemed offended that Duchere had the audacity to equalise and set about putting things right. But as so often the case Duchere raised their game, with something to hold on to (and stiffened the midfield with a substitution and generally compressed the game). Sochaux started to struggle to turn possession into scoring opportunities. Duchere seemed more than content with a point, but glory be Sochaux made a mess of clearing a corner and the loose ball was smashed home. French regional third flight it may be, but it meant three of the cleanest strikes I’ve ever seen in one game.
There were still 15 minutes to go and the question was whether Duchere would hold on. Sochaux pressed, but there just wasn’t the space they enjoyed in the first half and as their frustration grew – not least over the reluctance of Duchere players to go and get the ball when it went out – La Duch managed to play out the game reasonably comfortably. They even had the opportunity on the break to make a pigs ear of a three-on-one of the like not seen since Charlton v Fulham in a different era.
Cue the final whistle and joy for the 100 or so of us in the crowd, hearty congratulations between the Duchere players on winning a game that for most of the time they had no right to, and the Sochaux giants creeping off to the dressing room for a well-deserved bollocking. Just goes to show, whatever level there’s always hope (or despair) when the score reaches 2-0.
This post was going to be on what I would say to Powell were I Keith Peacock filling him in on the squad etc. But that will have to wait for another day as Morgan Stanley’s results are looming large (after Goldman Sachs yesterday) and, this being France, I’ll have to get to the shops before they all decide to decamp for lunch and turn away customers just as they’re getting hungry. What’s the point of offering great food if the shop’s shut? This post will have to just be about wishful thinking. The Cote Rotie has been qwaffed, along with a majestic offering from the Ventoux region and one from Languedoc. Tonight I hope it will be a Croze Hermitage and with the restaurant booked for Friday night my wish is for it all to be rounded off with a good St Joseph. But if I had one wish it would be to make it to the Rose of Denmark by 2pm on Saturday for a small bottle of red vinegar.