France's Ligue 1 got underway tonight as 19 teams try to break Olympique Lyon's 7-year grip on the championship. American defender Carlos Bocanegra anchored the central defense for Stade Rennais in a battle with traditional power Olympique Marseille. It did not help matters that going into the match, star striker Sylvain Wiltord had been suspended after criticizing coach Guy LaCombe in an interview with L'Equipe. At the same time, the club has been in the hunt for a quality central defender to pair up with Bocanegra, bringing in Lucien Aubey from Racing Club Lens in the last two days - too late to start with the team tonight.
Rennes got on top early with an Olivier Thomert goal in the 6th minute but soon found themselves under a Marseille barrage starting with a 12th minute goal by Bokari Kone (who beat Bocanegra badly in the process) and one by Hatem Ben-Arfa in the 14th. Mamadou Niang added one in the 29th to make it 3-1, which held going into halftime. Thomert scored again in the 51st, making it 3-2.
The Rennes home fans saw a wild finish thinking they had at least managed a draw when Marseille's Elamin Erbate scored an own goal to make it 3-3 in the 90th minute. Then, two minutes into injury time, Elliot Grandin thought he had the winner tapping in a goal to put the visitors on top 4-3. With injury time running out, a thrusting attack by Rennes led to midfielder Bruno Cheyrou finding the back of the net to make it 4-4 just before the final whistle blew.
An hour's drive away in Lorient, Andrew Jacobson did not suit up as the home side collected all three points, beating Le Mans 1-0 on a Christophe Jallet goal.
While Freddy Adu readied himself to face the Netherlands in Olympic play, his AS Monaco teammates faced Paris Saint-Germain. After a scoreless 78 minutes, Frédéric Nimani knocked one in to give Monaco the win 1-0.
The English Coca Cola Championship also started competition this week as Jay DeMerit went distance for Watford in a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace.
Earlier in the week, Reading and Aston Villa faced off in a friendly featuring three American players. New signing Brad Friedel played the full 90 minutes in goal and made an impression on the Villa fans stopping a Stephen Hunt penalty in the 10th minute. The penalty was awarded after Marin Larsen took down Reading's American midfielder Bobby Convey in the box. Friedel could do nothing in the 36th minute when a deflected ball got past him for a Reading goal. A few minutes later, Reading's American keeper Marcus Hahnemann had to stop a John Carew header from tying the match.
Friedel made a few more key stops later before Villa equalized when Gabriel Agbonlahor slotted a cross past an onrushing Hahnemann in the 80th. The Royals start the Championship season Sunday against Nottingham Forest. Villa's other American keeper, Brad Guzan, is in China to play with the US Olympic team.
In another preseason friendly, Clint Dempsey put in an unremarkable 15 minutes for Fulham in a 2-2 draw with Torino.
Over in Germany, Hannover 96 opened up its German Cup campaign tonight with a 5-0 win over 4th division side Halle with American Steve Cherundolo going the distance at right back. In the 79th minute, referee Lutz Wagner had to stop the match for 10 minutes due to fighting in the stands and fireworks being launched onto the field.