Nice 3-1 Zulte-Waregem
November 23, 2017
The Gym into the Round of 32!
The job has been done. Thanks to its win over Zulte-Waregem (3-1), the Gym have fulfilled one its objectives of the first half of the season: get out of the Europa League group stages. The men from Nice will get to taste the Round of 32 in 2018. 57 years later…
A penalty obtained in style, after a perfect ball in. Open up the side of the foot, reverence in front of the South (1-0, 4’).
An out of this world pass from Mika Seri, a perfect cross from Alassane Plea, a run with the right tempo and an accurate brace in the bag (2-0 31’). Suspended against Caen last Sunday, il signore Balotelli marked his return to the starting 11 in style. Desire, efficiency: the buffalo from Brescia came back at the level his counterparts were expecting. So all of a sudden, the Gym found itself quickly feeling a lot lighter, even though the game would become trickier as the clock ticked on. Two other opportunities that weren’t converted - Plea missed the target (9’) and Burner didn’t get enough power into his volley (13') - could have lead you to believe that the evening was going to breeze by. Not at all.
Set-up in a flat 4-4-2 at kick-off, with a classic defence, Koziello and Seri through the middle, Burner and Lees-Melou on the wings and the Plea-Balo’ duo up-front, the Red and Blacks were quickly in front, before getting themselves into trouble whilst waiting to manage the game. True to itself - formidable up-front and shaky at the back - Franck Dury’s men managed to regularly find themselves in front of an impeccable Walter Benitez’s goal.
In the same way as in his two previous outings, the South American goalkeeper was full of sobriety and confidence. In the first half, he closed down the angle well to deny Leya-Iseka (24’), got down perfectly to save a header from Kastanos (36’), and also leaned on the support of his defenders (Le Marchand after a shot from Leya-Iseka, then Souquet after Hamalainen headed towards goal) to keep the home goal untouched. From the start of the second half, he came out to deny Leya-Iseka once again (52’), and then made a perfect double stop - again to deny the former OM forward (56’) allowing them to maintain a comfortable gap. But it proved, at the same time, that the minutes spent defending always seem longer…
Tension and a thumping
The second period was, on the whole, dominated by the Dutch men, who looked to close the gap with insistance. Helped by its goalkeeper, the Gym tried to keep the score as was, but the Aiglons didn’t show the same control as in the first period. Coming back from injury, Mika Seri, the man who makes everything easier, expectedly dropped off as the game went on.
And by continuing to refuse to play, Nice finally ended up putting itself in danger with 10 minutes to go, when the very good Hamalainen hit a monstrous strike from 35 metres out, with a free-kick (2-1, 80'). This time, Benitez was unable to deny the opposition, and the atmosphere quickly changed with a bad vibe filling the ground.
Adrien Tameze, who came on with fire in his legs, took responsibility to calm everything down. Running like a bull, the ex-V.A player broke the line, entered the box and found Bostyn’s net (3-1 86').
The people of Nice could breathe.
And the Allianz delighted: the first Round of 32 in its history will take place in 2018.
Nice, Allianz Riviera,
OGC Nice 3-1 Zulte-Waregem (2-0 at half-time)
5th game of the Europa League - 23/11/2017
20 274 spectators
Referee: Luca Banti
Goals: Balotelli (5' pen., 31'), Tameze (86') for Nice; Hamalainen (80') for Zulte-Waregem.
OGC Nice: Benitez - Souquet, Dante (cap), Le Marchand, Jallet - Burner (Lusamba 78'), Koziello, Seri (Tameze 75'), Lees-Melou - Plea, Balotelli (Marlon 85').
Zulte-Waregem: Bostyn - Baudry, De Fauw, Heylen - Walsh, Doumbia (Saponjic 79'), Coopman, Hamalainen - De Pauw (Cordaro 78'), Leya-Iseka, Kastanos (De Sart 46').