St-Etienne 1-0 Nice
August 5, 2017
NICE START WITH A LOSS
After conceding an early goal, Le Gym were unable to find a way back into the game against Saint-Etienne... Low on energy after their midweek exertions, Nice begin the league championship with a 1-0 defeat.
Was it because of the efforts made in the Battle of Amsterdam; the tension of playing in Europe and the energy sapped away in qualifying for the Champions League play-off against Italian powerhouse Napoli? Was it Saint-Etienne's desire to sit deep and hit with speed on the counter? Or was it simply a bad day at the office? Probably a combination of all of these things.
In the August heat and a Chaudron without half its fans, Le Gym struggled to impose its rhythm – normally one of the side's strengths – unable to escape the pressing in tight perimeters and then burst forward courtesy of a quality passing game. Stunned by the early opening goal from Jonathan Bamba, after a superb pass from Romain Hamouma in between Max' Le Marchand and Malang Sarr, that allowed Oussama Tannane to cross (4'), Lucien Favre's side seemed short on ideas, despite enjoying the lion's share of possession.
Without the services of playmaker Mika Seri, suspended and replaced by Rémi Walter in the 4-2-3-1 formation, Nice never managed to find ways through the Les Verts' defence. Set up in a 4-3-3 formation with a physical midfield (Dabo, Selnaes, Diousse) and quick attackers (Tannane, Bamba, Hamouma), Sainté played simple and effective football. It was a style that enabled them to carve out the better opportunities in the first half. Cardinale was called upon to punch out a Tannane shot (6'), and then save from Bamba (16') before watching another effort from the latter flash over the crossbar (36').
Nice's only real chance of the opening 45 minutes came when Lees-Melou latched onto good lead up play from Plea and Eysseric, and produced a wonderful effort – matched only by Ruffier's save (14'). Another tame Lees-Melou effort completed the visitors' first-half attacking product.
Aware that his side needed to hit hard in order to take home the points, Lucien Favre brought on Vincent Marcel for Bassem Srarfi as the sides came out for the second half. Valentin Eysseric slotted into playmaking duties as the goal hero from Wednesday night took up his preferred position on the left flank. As was the case at the end of the first half, the Gym dominated possession and played quite high up the pitch. They garnered a few corners and some dead ball situations as well as a couple of chances in open play. From a powerful cross by Sarr, Plea came up just short (65').
Straight after that, Koziello was at the origin of a move that ended with a powerful shot from Marcel, but Ruffier managed to get a hand to it and send it wide (67'). No regrets though, as the assistant referee had raised his flag for off-side. "Punto basta".
Saint-Etienne managed to weather the storm from the south without ever being overly troubled. J.V. Makengo and Adrien Tameze came on in the last 20 minutes, but Les Verts maintained control as the clock ticked down, even carving out a few (not very dangerous) situations in Nice's half.
The Rouge et Noir, heroic in their mid-week tie, didn't have the lungs nor the legs to turn the situation around.
So now they return to the Côte d'Azur looking to process some bitterness and frustration - which they will need to do quickly and effectively given the big matches that await in August. Starting with their first home game of the Ligue 1 Conforama season, next Friday against promoted Troyes.
St-Etienne, stade Geoffroy-Guichard
AS St-Etienne 1-0 OGC Nice (1-0 )
First Day of Ligue 1 - 02/08/2017
Attendance: 25 879
Referee: François Letexier
Goals: Bamba (4') for St-Etienne.
Bookings: Theophile-Catherine (12'), Selnaes (66') for St-Etienne ; Dante (70') for Nice .
AS St-Etienne: Ruffier - Janko, Perrin, Theophile-Catherine, P-Gabriel - Selnaes, Dioussé, Dabo - Tannane (Souissi 78'), Bamba, Hamouma (Diony 62').
OGC Nice: Cardinale - Souquet, Dante (cap), Le Marchand, Sarr - Koziello (Tameze 78'), Walter (Makengo 74') - Lees-Melou, Srarfi (Marcel 46'), Eysseric - Plea.