There was early away-day cheer for title hopefuls Marseille on the opening day of the new French Ligue 1 season on Saturday, but Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain had to make do with draws.
Lyon were saved at the death by new signing from Porto Lisandro Lopez, who netted a free-kick to salvage a 2-2 draw at lowly Le Mans, who were twice ahead, while PSG stuttered to a 1-1 draw at Montpellier.
Former European champions Marseille, who have endured a 17-year wait for a league crown, were ahead after just two minutes at Grenoble when Mamadou Niang put them in front having slalomed through a brittle home defense.
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps, determined to bring the good times back to the Stade Velodrome, permitted himself a nod of satisfaction on the bench as Benoit Cheyrou secured the points with the second goal 10 minutes from time.
“There were more positives than negatives,” Deschamps said. “We had things pretty much under control, though many will say it’s logical that Marseille win at Grenoble. I hope we can go on from here.”
Marseille finished three points adrift of champions Bordeaux last term and now are bent on going one better.
Paris Saint-Germain, wholesale underachievers since their last championship win back in 1994, again showed their flaws in drawing 1-1 at Montpellier.
The hosts from the south were down to 10 men for the last hour after Cyril Jeunechamp was dismissed for a second bookable offense for scything down PSG’s Ludovic Giuly from behind in the 27th minute.
Giuly exacted delicious revenge by firing home from close range in the 71st minute after home keeper Geoffrey Jourdren spilled a shot from veteran Claude Makelele, but rugged Bosnian signing Emir Spahic powered in a header from inside the six-yard box on the stroke of time to deny the Parisians all three points.
Lyon had a double fright, meanwhile, at Le Mans, who were ahead after 21 minutes through Malian youngster Modibo Maiga.
Mathieu Bodmer leveled seven minutes later for Lyon, who could only come third last season after seven league title wins on the trot — when the run began they had never lifted the trophy in their history — but Mathieu Coutadeur scored from the penalty spot on the hour to restore the hosts’ lead.
Brazilian defender Cris tangled with Maiga to earn Le Mans the spot-kick, but just as an embarrassing loss loomed up popped Lopez to save Lyon’s blushes.
Elsewhere, Saint Etienne, who just survived last season after months of trials and tribulations that belied their former status of French giants, went down 2-0 at home to Nice.
Auxerre also lost on home soil to Sochaux by the only goal and northerners Nancy won on their travels, 3-1 at Valenciennes.
Monaco’s Nene scored to see off Toulouse 1-0, while Rennes swamped promoted Boulogne 3-0.