Sun, Aug 06, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Lyon start new campaign with 3-1 victory at Nantes

AFP , NANTES, FRANCE

The curtain rose on the 2006/07 French season on Friday with the opening game serving up a familiar storyline -- a win for champions Lyon.

Gerard Houllier's side took their first step to an unprecedented sixth straight title with a comfortable 3-1 success over Nantes despite the bulk of their nine World Cup finalists enjoying a night off.

The absence of Sylvain Wiltord, Florent Malouda, Gregory Coupet and Juninho gave Houllier a chance to blood new signings Sebastien Squillaci and Kim Kallstrom.

But the champions found themselves behind after a mere 120 seconds with Nantes' new recruit Nourdin Boukhari producing the first goal of the new campaign.

The Moroccan's free kick flew past Lyon keeper Remi Vercoutre.

But Nantes had barely a minute to enjoy their lead before Lyon drew level thanks to some nifty footwork and some sloppy defensive work by the Canaries.

Lyon striker John Carew was at the heart of the equalizer, the Norwegian picking out an unmarked Karim Benzema lurking by the far post, the France Under 21 international shooting left-footed past Vladimir Stojkovic.

Nantes would have gone behind on 21 minutes but for the sharp reflexes of Stojkovic, who arrived in the close season from Red Star Belgrade.

The 23-year-old Serb repayed some of his purchase price when keeping out Kallstrom's header.

A lively encounter remained deadlocked until Lyon put their heads together to come up with their second just after an hour.

From a corner Mahamadou Diarra headed to Claudio Cacapa by the far post who in turn headed to Squillaci who outjumped two Nantes defenders to head into an open goal.

Lyon's Brazil international Fred sealed the win with two minutes left.

Kallstrom charged down the left and then flicked the ball back to Fred from the touchline whose shot from the edge of the box wrongfooted Stojkovic.

French World Cup star Franck Ribery said on Friday that he was determined to leave Marseille, dealing a blow to the club's management on the eve of the new season.

Ribery said he wanted to join a club that could give him the promise of trophies and Champions League soccer.

"My wish is to leave Marseille," Ribery told French broadcaster TF1.

"I want to leave because I want to win things. I want to play in the Champions League, I want to continue to develop, I want to be around big players. For me, that's important," he said.

The 23-year-old gave no information about his future destination.

"The directors at Marseille know where I want to go, and the club that I want to sign for knows as well. Now it's up to them to reach an agreement," he said.

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