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A superb ending

Nice 2-1 Krasnodar

December 9, 2016

A superb ending

Le Gym's 2016-2017 European adventure ended with an excellent 2-1 win over Krasnodar. With an extremely young starting XI, Lucien Favre's side did the club proud and clinched the win with goals from Bosetti and Le Marchand. They quit the competition with their heads held high.

For the last European match of the season, the Swiss coach took a gamble on youth, favouring the club's youngsters in a starting line-up with 11 changes from the side who won 3-0 in Toulouse at the weekend. And it paid off. Lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, Nice - who had Max Le Marchand and Mario Balotelli back form injury while Patrick Burner and Romain Perraud made their senior-team debuts, with Arnaud Lusamba and Vincent Marcel debuting in Europe - gave a good account of themselves on an evening with low stakes, Le Gym being already eliminated and Krasnodar qualified as the match kicked off. 

The visitors enjoyed the lion's share of possession - which isn't what the locals are used to - but they didn't manage to look all that dangerous. At least not early on. In front of them, the young Nice set-up, with a senior player in each line (Le Marchand at the back, Bodmer in the middle and Balotelli up front) were cool, calm and collected, with Vincent Marcel accurate, active and dynamic in the middle of the park. Indeed, it was the home side who carved out the better chances in the first half, Donis curling his shot just wide of the Russians' far post.

The young Patrick Burner, who was making his first start, at right wing-back, capped two swashbuckling runs with shots over the frame of the goal. Super Mario had two efforts that yielded nothing… in short, Les Aiglons kept putting their opponents in danger but couldn't get them to crack.

Making his return to competition, Super Mario was raring to go and looked to link up with his teammates as much as possible for the space of one half, in a bid to get his bearings back ahead of some big upcoming clashes. Le Gym gave a good account of themselves, keeping it professional and playing without pressure. In defence, Favre's men were rigorous. And when they were put on the back foot by one of FKK's rare forays into the danger zone, Walter Benitez looked well capable of dealing what they threw at him. He was solid on his line, coolly capturing a back-header from Souquet, but also further out, heading a long ball clear as Smolov bore down on him. The Russian striker went extremely close at the end of the first half, latching onto a superb pass from Akhmedov.

Superb second half

However, Smolov managed to hit the target in the second half. Eboué snatched the ball from the feet of Lusamba. The ball fell for Fyodor Smolov, who held off Le Marchand before placing a shot between the number 20's legs and in at the far post. But the goal did nothing to dampen the hosts' ambitions. The Niçois continued to attack without losing their cohesion. And they were rewarded. The victim of a dangerous tackle from Granqvist (who was duly red carded), Lusamba earned a penalty and Alexy Bosetti sprang forward to take it. The born and bred Nice man bagged his first goal of the season with finesse and sang-froid: when his initial, successful effort was ruled out for encroachment, he followed up a cheeky chip right up the middle.

A man up, the young Aiglons pushed on for the win, and their strong desire paid dividends. The Russians began to get serious and tried to muscle their way back into the ascendancy, but the Azureans refused to relinquish their grip on the match. After efforts from Lusamba and Marcel, they finally took the lead. The great Le Marchand, so important last season, handed Le Gym the win as he proved the quickest and slammed home Bosetti's corner, which had been cleverly flicked on by Mahou (77').

Heart, spirit and drive earned the Rouge et Noir a fine victory. Le Gym and the Niçois can savour a victorious evening full of great stories, while bidding Europa adieu and hoping to see her again next season. And while turning their attentions to their looking top-of-the-table clash against Paris, on Sunday at the Parc des Princes.

C.D.

Nice, Allianz Riviera,

OGC Nice 2-1 FK Krasnodar (0-0 at half-time)

Europa League Matchday 6 - 08/12/2016

Attendance: 12,722

Referee: Sandro Schärer

Goals: Bosetti (64' pen.), Le Marchand (77') for Nice; Smolov (52') for Krasnodar

Yellow cards: Balotelli (26'), Marcel (55') for Nice; Eboué (25'), Granqvist (40') for Krasnodar

Red card: Granqvist (61') for Krasnodar

OGC Nice: Benitez - Burner, Souquet (Albert 74'), Le Marchand, Boscagli, Perraud - Lusamba, Bodmer (cap), Marcel - Balotelli (Bosetti 46'), Donis (Mahou 68').

FK Krasnodar: Sinitsin - Naldo, Martynovich, Granqvist, Jedrzejczyk - Gazinski, Eboué, Akhmedov - Torbinski (Kaleshin 63'), Smolov, Joaozinho.