The Gym are beaten 1-0 and will have to turn things around
OGC Nice lost 1-0 at Maccabi Tel Aviv in the first leg of their Conference League play-off. They will have to make up for this loss next Thursday at the Allianz Riviera to qualify for the group stage of the C4.
Every match is different. This play-off game was full of both hope and frustration. In the first 90 minutes of the double-header, each team had its half. The Gym missed chances in the first leg but couldn’t score. Maccabi were encouraged by a magnificent crowd and dominated the second half, scoring the winner with 15 minutes to go. This does not bode well for the second leg, but it does indicate the path to take to travel outside of France.
45 MINUTES OF BEAUTY
After two draws in the first two games of the season, Gym's response to the demands of Europe was expected. From the start, the Aiglons responded. With Youcef Atal back on the right side of defence, Lemina and Thuram in midfield and Aaron Ramsey making his first start in the line-up, Lucien Favre's team dominated their opponents in every aspect of the game except the scoreboard. The Aiglons were more active and more comfortable in their attacking play, and were able to use all the elements that make a team dangerous: the switch between short and long balls, the ability to hold on to the ball in one area of the pitch before accelerating in another, technical accuracy, and the right way of moving the ball...
They were in control of the ball and created a plethora of chances in the first 45 minutes. Seven, to be precise. Seven situations in which the little something that leads to big consequences was always missing. From the start, Rares Ilie picked up a pass from 20 metres out and then took his chance, but his shot was blocked (2'). In the next minute, Delort, perfectly served by Bard, saw his first time volley deflected by a tremendous Peretz, in a move that was finally flagged offside (5').
The first half-hour of the match was a real flurry of activity, with the Red and Blacks' ability to win the ball back very quickly putting their opponents to the sword. Ramsey found Thuram at the far post from a corner, but Peretz saved again (20'). The Welsh international then set up Andy for the second attempt. The Sétois found the post, Ilie followed but missed the target (21'). The Welsh international then tried his luck after another sublime move, where Calvin Stengs found him in the middle of the park, but the former Arsenal man was denied by the Maccabi keeper. Just like Delort at the end of the half.
In defence, Gym were only broken once, when the hosts had two chances from a set-piece. But Thuram turned away the Israeli attempt, then the ball came back into the box from a cross but went wide.
At the break, Gym could be both satisfied and frustrated. Satisfied with their output and frustrated with their lack of chances. They would have to find the right balance in the end to make their hold on the game a reality.
MACCABI GOT THE UPPER HAND
At the start of the second half, Maccabi began to get their foot on the ball and to get into the red and black half. Despite 10 minutes in favour of the hosts, who did not create any dangerous situations, the Gym started to push forward. A good cross from Ilie found Stengs in the box, but the former AZ Alkmaar man failed to hit his volley. Ramsey then missed the target, despite a good run at the near post from Atal's cross and a good header (56').
The match gradually lost momentum. The match gradually dropped in intensity and Vladimir Ivic's men took possession of the ball and moved into the Nice half of the pitch.
In search of a second wind for his side, Lucien Favre brought on Brahimi and Gouiri shortly after the hour mark, replacing Stengs and Ilie. The first effect of these two changes was two new opportunities for the Aiglons. The first of these opportunities came when Ramsey shot wide and Delort's long range free-kick from 30 yards was parried by Peretz (66'). In the other direction, Schmeichel saved a shot from Jovanovic (71').
The match gradually slipped away from Nice due to a lack of efficiency. This bad feeling materialised in the 74th minute, with some long balls and a poor defensive position, just like against Strasbourg. Perica ran in behind Todibo and lobbed Schmeichel to give his side a precious lead (1-0).
After this opening goal, the Nice defence were under pressure. In an excited atmosphere, Maccabi started to push very hard. The Gym ran out of steam. Atal made a magnificent defensive tackle (75'). In the aftermath, from a corner, Atal, then Bard, twice cleared the opposing tries on their own goal line. For five minutes, there was a bad smell of a break. Nice went forward again but opened up, which made for a disjointed and anxious end to the match. Rosario came on to bring his strength in the last quarter of an hour.
The Gym pushed for an equaliser. Gouiri had two chances. Maccabi caused uncertainty in all their attacks and in the end, the score did not change.
The Aiglons will travel to Clermont this Sunday, before hosting Maccabi Tel Aviv this Thursday, in the second leg of the play-off, at the Allianz Riviera. They will have to put in a great performance and make up for lost time in order to play in the C4.
The data sheet
Maccabi Tel Aviv - OGC Nice (0-0 at half-time)
Conference League play-off first leg
18 August 2022
Bloomfield Stadium - Tel Aviv
Approximately 29,500 spectators
Goal: Perica (74') for Maccabi Tel Aviv
Maccabi Tel Aviv (starting 11)
Peretz, Geraldes, Yeini, Saborit, Bitton, Hozez, Van Overeem, Golasa, Kanichowsky, Zahavi, Jovanovic
Schmeichel - Atal, Todibo, Dante (cap), Bard - Lemina (Rosario 87'), Thuram - Stengs (Brahimi 65'), Ramsey (Beka Beka 87'), Ilie (Gouiri 65') - Delort