France, Tuesday: Bordeaux went out of the Champions’ League tonight, beating Lyon 1-0 but losing 3-2 on aggregate. Salut! Sunderland allowed itself a small cheer as it said farewell to the pantomime baddies of winemaking country …
Last summer, Salut! Sunderland decided to have a spot of fun at the expense of the French champions Bordeaux.
Not because we felt les Girondins deserved no credit for the superb run-in that brought them the Ligue 1 title last season. Not because they haven’t got good players and an enthusiastic, if smallish, band of spectators. And not because they continually found room, if mainly as a sub, for David Bellion, known at Sunderland for long, exciting runs that ended with the ball hoofed into the Wear.
No, it was all because the preposterous Bordeaux chairman, Jean-Louis Triaud, who really should stick to winemaking, aided and abetted by his hitherto blameless manager, Laurent Blanc, chose to insult Sunderland AFC. It was their punishment, imposed on us for trying to bring the Bordeaux striker, Marouane Chamakh, to the infinitely superior Premier League.
Who are Sunderland? Where did they finish up in the Premier? Chamakh can go, but only to a big club. These were the words on les lèvres bordelaises. Trouble was, no “big club” at the time especially wanted him. Worse, a glance at the history of Bordeaux and Sunderland showed both had six top flight championships (admittedly, in our case, from long, long ago!). A glance at more recent history showed that the relatively small city of Sunderland had an underperforming team drawing average home gates of 40,000; Bordeaux, self-designated as part of the European elite, struggled some weeks to get above 30,000.
Tonight, I settled down in France to watch the second leg of the Lyon-Bordeaux Chanpions’ League quarter-final. It was 3-1 at Lyon, to the home team. And Lyon began the return in far more positive mood than opponents seeking to overturn or match a two-goal margin.
For long periods, Bordeaux seemed to have one key tactic: fall over often and theatrically enough to get Aly Cissokho sent off. It was good cut-and-thrust stuff of the sort we saw in our Championship (Ligue 2 to the French) promotion seasons, and eventually Bordeaux bustled enough to grab a goal, courtesy of a wicked deflection.
They proceeded to fall a lot, hustle a lot, dive a lot and occasionally threaten Hugo Loris’s goal (he even had to pull off a Craig Gordon-style save near the end, from Wendel’s powerful header). It petered out with a bit of Lyonnais keep-ball in the Bordeaux half.
But in a way the result did not much matter. A run of bad results has seen Bordeaux lose the French league cup final against Marseille, slip from number one position in Ligue 1 and now join Manchester United as Champions’ league also-rans. What we saw tonight was frantic but uncultured. And though the top four in France may be a little better than we thought it was, it is still Fulham/Everton/Villa, not Chelsea/Man United or even poor, Messi-struck Arsenal.
Even so, Salut! Sunderland thought it was time for a cesser-le-feu. Our hostilities against Bordeaux, or rather its president and – to a lesser extent – manager, have run their course. It’s been fun, but we need to liberate a bit of space down the left-hand sidebar.
And in any case, who needs Marouane Chamakh when we’ve got Darren Bent?
* Caricature of Chamakh from our electronic friend and (presumably disconsolate) Bordeaux fan Kamini-le-ouf. See his Flickr pages at this link.
Kamini knows Salut! Sunderland sympathises with his fellow fans, pleased as we are to see M Triaud with a little egg on his face.