Four games in the South of France including seeing OM at Monaco.
12th December 2014 Marseille Consolat 1 Epinal 1 National c. 200
A chilly night at the very basic Stade La Martine in the Marseille suburb of Saint Antoine.
The stadium featured a mixing desk and sound system next to the concrete seating.
The bumpy pitch wouldn’t have helped the overall quality and would partly explain the many misplaced passes.
Hence there was not much significant first half action.
Until, that is, the visitors from the North East took the lead late in the half following a corner.
Striker Benkajjane scoring from a parry by the home goalie.
However the second period did warm us up a bit with much more incident not least a red card, after an altercation, for the Epinal goalscorer.
With Consolat pressing for most of the half they did eventually get parity against the ten men when defender Nicodeme headed in at the near post.
Despite their efforts the home side (which has risen quickly through the amateur ranks to this third level) were unable to add another.
So both sides remained near the foot of the table.
Afterwards I stopped at a bar to see Ronaldo score a couple more goals for Real before getting the train back to St Charles station.
13th December Montpellier 3 Lens 3 Ligue 1 9,784 (c. 120 away fans)
Montpellier currently play at the Altrad Stadium though they expect to return to their main home ,the Mosson, in January.
That stadium was flooded and presumably they are still endeavouring to restore the pitch to a reasonable condition.
Not that the pitch at the Altrad was great.
The combination of rugby and rain would have taken its toll.
However the players adjusted well providing plenty of entertainment.
The goals went in from the start with the home team going two up within fifteen minutes through Sanson and Barrios.
But Lens replied fairly quickly when Valdivia shot in left footed to reduce the deficit.
A fine near post header by Guillaume got the visitors back level and it was 2-2 at the break.
More goals were added in the second half in a game where the defences struggled.
Mounier converted at the far post following a right wing cross but Lens ensured the points would be shared when substitute Touzghar pounced on a rebound with ten minutes remaining.
So lots of action on a moderately cool, dry evening.
Afterwards I walked to the tram and was back in the centre of Montpellier before 11pm.
Where, on this Saturday night, the Place de la Comedie was alive with bustling crowds around the winter market stalls.
Many indulging in significant amounts of refreshment.
14th December Nice 0 St Etienne 0 Ligue 1 18,493 (no away)
The next morning the revellers were still in evidence around the streets and especially in the station.
Unfortunately my stay there, having got up at 5.40 am, was prolonged because of a long delay to my Marseille-bound train.
Which meant I missed the connection for NIce meaning a much later arrival and hence a taxi to the stadium was needed to get there in a timely fashion.
The new Nice ground comprises three tiers, the top one being quite small.
In the match itself the main incident was the clash between Diomande and Eduardo that resulted in both being dismissed.
Playing as a striker Alassane Plea probably had the best chance for the home side but he was out-muscled and the opportunity disappeared.
Talking of strikers ex-Sporting front man Ricky van Wolfswinkel was in the St Etienne side and he, typically, headed for the penalty box at every opportunity while supplying a range of gestures to his teammates.
So, despite some Nice corners later on, a not totally unusual outcome.
What we did see though was some good entertainment by the ultras with flares, flags and songs.
I took the bus back to the Promenade des Anglais from where this ‘Anglais’ made his way to his hotel near the station before having a snack prior to game 2.
14th December Monaco 1 Ol. Marseille Ligue 1 12,648 (c. 2,500 away)
It was easy enough to get the train to the Principality for this 9pm kick-off.
Though getting back by public transport is more problematic - in our case a taxi proved the only realistic option..
The Stade Louis II is certainly unique and it has fascinating architecture but it does need some updating, not least in the catering department.
With AS Monaco celebrating 90 years of existence there was a parade of ex-players (L. Thuram included) which was very well received.
As was some of the other razzamatazz - dancers and t-shirt ladies included.
League leaders Marseille had plenty of support, mostly at one end, but they would be
disappointed with the result.
For a neutral this game had much more action than the earlier stalemate.
With OM going close with headers, including from Gignac, while Monaco clipped the bar in the first half.
Ferreira Carrasco also shot just past the post and Moutinho was prominent, particularly in the second period.
It was in the second half that the home side scored the winner when a right wing cross was shot home by Silva, Steve Mandanda probably should have done better.
Marseille were unable to breach the Monaco defence and thus experienced a setback in their chase for the title (although Paris St Germain also lost)
The taxi choice worked out well as we, with a brisk exit, escaped any roadblocks and made it back to Nice before 11.30pm.
More pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/3031143636