Creteil 2-2 Clermont; 1409MR5

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Friday night is France night, and what better to watch than Ligue 2?

So, what happened? Creteil played really well for huge parts of this game, but managed to score twice while I wasn’t watching, which was a touch unfortunate. Meanwhile, Clermont offered very little going forward, even though they looked robust at the back, yet I saw both of Idris Saadi’s goals; the first, during the first half, from an improbable angle on the right hand side.

The second, rather embarassingly for a Creteil side who had all the impression of going on to secure a comfortable enough comeback victory before a harmless cross looped up off a defender and wrong-footed the Creteil keeper enough to ensure he palmed the ball only into the path of Saadi, who gleefully gobbled up the opportunity.

Clermont’s general tactic was to hit hard and fast on the break, their only release from the pressure Creteil built – even though at a largely pedestrian rate – being counter-attacks that looked to have promise, but never had the quality to produce much from them (note the amount of men in the box for each of their goals). It was, then, a curious affair. Creteil had the best of it, but laboured. Clermont looked poor doing what they tried to but scored twice anyway. Good Friday night fun.

Entertainment value? 6.5/10

Hannover 2-0 Hamburg; 1409MR4

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This rather delightful encounter was played on the Sunday afternoon, and was more of ‘its there’ than any particular desire to see it. Coincidentally, this was 2-0 when I turned on after about half an hour, meaning that by the end of this match, I’d seen 5 halves of football in September and 1 goal.

So, what happened? Even at 2-0 up, Hannover tried to commit men forward, initially looking far more likely to get a third than Hamburg to get a first. There was a few clear cut chances during the hour I watched, most notably a Hamburg header slammed against the crossbar but there was always a feeling that the visitors wouldn’t have enough, almost as if Hannover were ‘letting them’ attack knowing they couldn’t do any damage, like an older brother letting the younger sibling race off, knowing that he has the pace to get back easily in a race.

This is three games without a goal for Hamburg, and with Bayern to come, it won’t get any easier. The likes of Lewis Holtby (anonymous) and Zoltan Stieber (frustrating) will have to be better in that game.

Hannover, it has to be said, were no great shakes for the period I saw; their reluctance to really press on for a third goal making them look relatively toothless even though it is hard to think that would have been the case had they not been ahead early.

Excitement factor 4/10

Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa; 1409MR3

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Another game that the away team led 0-1 when I joined it, it was more of an hour than just a half this time.

So, what happened? Again, I was hoping to see a Liverpool full of the same vim and verve that they’ve become famous for though – although initially it seemed to be because of the flatness of falling behind – it just didn’t click for the Reds.

With Sterling being rested and Sturridge absent, there was a clear message that Brendan Rodgers’ side clearly need one or both of those sprightly young Englishmen to offer the spark that players of the quality of Balotelli and Markovic can run with.

And so it went on, with Liverpool huffing and puffing but the quality of their forward play not particularly testing an Aston Villa defence that was (its worth noting) short of Ron’crete’ Vlaar themselves. There’s been talk of Villa being a bogey side for the Reds, but while it might seem so, Paul Lambert isn’t an idiot. Liverpool’s strengths lie in their attacking play, and their pace.

By sitting deeper, the threat is negated to a point and while it doesn’t guarantee the lock won’t be picked its a decent start. Its the sort of tactics that a lot of teams will employ at Anfield, and learning to deal with it will be Liverpool’s biggest test this season (as it was last).

If they don’t score early, it becomes harder and harder to break down increasingly resolute opposition. They couldn’t break down Villa and rarely looked likely to.

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