Saturday, 5 March 2011

Lille v Lyon

The Dukes of Hazard

Lille 1-1 Lyon (27:02:11)
Lille II 0-0 Villemomble (27:02:11)

Andrew Gibney continues where Andy Hudson left off on the second installment of the lads European Football Weekend in France....

After a near death experience I think it was only fair we had a little lie in, morning had fast turned into the afternoon before we awoke from our slumber. Saturday’s awful weather had put our attendance of Lille II v Villemomble Sports in doubt and as Andy opened the window for his morning cigarette there was delight all-round, clear skies and sunshine greeted us through the hotel window. Match two was a go!

Once in the centre of town we returned to “Les 3 Brasseurs” a fine establishment where we enjoyed quite a few beers on Saturday. This time food was on the menu, Now I don’t think of myself as a fussy eater, give me some sort of meat, potatoes, pasta or rice and I’m happy. Even with the English menu nothing was catching my eye, the sensible option seemed to be if in doubt always go for the “Soup of the Day”. Now a little pointer for all travellers out there, when the waitress doesn’t know the English word for what type of soup is available it’s probably best to pick something else.

Two bread rolls, €6 and 15 minutes of trying to avoid eye contact with the waitress and my rancid green soup was on its way back to the kitchen virtually untouched. We jumped on the metro and headed to Villeneuve D’ascq in search for the Stade Lille Metropole – Terrain II – a small ground beside the real Stade Metropole home of CFA2 side Wasquehal and Lille’s second side the aptly named Lille II who play in France’s 4th tier or CFA.

Once off the train it was apparent that the area around the Metropole was not one of the nicest areas of Lille, even more shocking perhaps that there was no sign of a pub for miles, later confirmed by a stadium steward. We arrived at the tiny ground midway through the first half and joined the fifty or so fans in the solitary stand and settled in for our second game of the weekend. I picked out the number 10 as Omar Wade a 20 year-old French striker worth watching, but after receiving a minor knock in the first half he seemed disinterested and for the lack of a better word was terrible.

From one ground to another. Two stadiums in one photo, tick. 

There wasn’t much in the way of class on show, no one in the Lille first team should worry about their spot as not one of the twelve Lille players that entered the field was worthy of more than a passing mention. Currently 2nd bottom of their CFA group it was clear to see what the regular fans were expecting when fans turned up with bags full of Stella Artois. Andy and I gazed at them with respect and jealousy. The game ended without incident and without goals. Two thirds of our trip complete and we were yet to see a goal.

Back in the centre it wasn’t long before we were in our usual Lille haunt. Andy went for the one litre of the Brune while I opted for the waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce, I’m continental like that. The woman next to us face was a picture when the huge beer was placed in front of Mr Hudson, obviously not the done thing while out for a quiet afternoon meal.

After a change of pubs and a few Grimbergen’s it was time to make our way to the Stade Lille Metropole, Even one hour before kick-off there was an obvious lack of people in the centre. It was clear Lille is not a football town. Once on the Metro the amount of Les Dogues began to increase and soon we were in a full carriage, no singing though. We stumbled out of the station and went with the crowd towards the stadium; a local was flabbergasted to discover that we had chosen to visit Lille just for the football. Twice he questioned “Why?” “J’adore Lille!!” was my response.

We meandered through the delightful high rise village and once on the road we were greeted with one of football’s most beautiful sites; four glowing floodlights lighting up the crisp night sky. The goose bumps began to build. Now I feel I should explain a little, for me this was no ordinary EFW. My trip to Lille was six years in the making, back in 2007 my trip to Lille was cancelled 12 hours before my Eurostar train was due to depart. A fire in a London warehouse led to a 24 suspension of service, so 4 months of waiting and over two years of planning were ruined. Finally I was walking towards the Stade du Nord on Matchday.

One of football's most beautiful sites.

Come on you Irons. Here's what you West Ham fans can look forward to. 

Once inside we took our place in the stadium, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, it was everything I had hoped it would be. In what is basically a bowl with two stands parallel to the pitch each end behind the goals is left open to the night sky? Soaking up the atmosphere we could see the ultras to our right begin to set up their banners and both teams continued warming up. As the teams were announced, I - as a 29 year-old man about to be married - had too much fun shouting out players names, more importantly that of a 20 year-old Belgian boy.

The games itself was overall very entertaining, Eden Hazard started like a man possessed, it was a delight to not just witness what I like to call “Hazgic” (Hazard-magic) but to see the look on Andy’s face as Hazard skipped past three Lyon midfielders and he realised all the hype was justified, this kid is the real deal. Moussa Sow opened the scoring after eight minutes, tapping in Hazard’s free-kick from close range. Lyon midfielder Kim Kallstrom levelled the game when Mickael Landreau’s poor clearance fell to the Swede and his sweet left foot strike flew past the ‘keeper and into the net.


A good point well made.

After you, Claude. I can't begin to think why we sidestepped this hotel.

A superb first half was followed by a rather lacklustre second half. Lille had all the possession for the first fifteen minutes but couldn’t capitalise. Lyon slowly came back into the game and could have easily won all three points. Jeremy Toulalan and Jimmy Briand were presented with great chances but found Mickael Landreau in great form. In the end a draw seemed a fair result and left the home fans happy to sit top of the league on goal difference.

Back in the centre there was time for a late night burger and some beers from a bar we both wished we had found on the first day. My last meal in Lille and it was to the best by far. Unfortunately French cuisine had not lived up to expectations, compounded by the awful hotel breakfast the next morning. I feel ashamed to say how much I enjoyed the burger bought outside Kings Cross upon our arrival back in blighty.

Good football, Great Stories, some awful food, it seems my friendly French gentleman was right all along. My first European Football Weekend really was to die for.

And in this weeks Panorama....

....Stade Lille Metropole – Terrain II...

....and the actual Stade Lille Metropole. Merci, au revoir.

You can follow Andy Hudson and Andrew Gibney on Twitter

Mr Hudson also owns the fantastic Gannin' Away

Mr Gibney is the proprietor of the excellent Gib Football Show

- Feel free to comment below -

No comments: