AC Ajaccio - Nantes 0-2
Ajaccio returned to the Stade Francois Coty still in search of their first domestic victory at home this year and with an opportunity to win back-to-back Ligue 1 games for the first time in almost a decade. The hosts nearly got off to the perfect start through Cyrille Bayala, who was denied a wonder goal by the crossbar after doing brilliantly to surpass two Nantes defenders. The hosts’ positive start to the game was somewhat dented when their captain Vincent Marchetti was forced off injured inside 20 minutes, especially as he had been setting the tempo in midfield up to that point.
Nantes have conceded a mere two goals since the December restart and again looked solid defensively throughout the first half. However, their struggles in front of goal continued as they couldn’t add to the four goals they have scored following the World Cup, not even managing a shot on target as the whistle blew for HT with the game still goalless. Ajaccio top-scorer Youcef Belaïli almost added to his five goals this season, doing well to create some space on the edge of the area before bending his curling effort just wide of the post.
Shortly after, the hosts were made to pay for wasting their good opportunities as Nantes took the lead with their first attempt on goal of the game. Samuel Moutoussamy's lovely chipped pass found its way to Evann Guessand, who made no mistake with his first-time strike to give his team the lead against the run of play.
Fabien Centonze should have wrapped up the game for Nantes 10 minutes from time when he skipped past the Ajaccio defence and placed his shot around the onrushing Benjamin Leroy, but his effort was brilliantly blocked by his opposing full-back Mohamed Youssouf. The game ended dramatically when Ismaël Diallo was shown a straight red card for handling the ball on the goal line, allowing Ludovic Blas to blast his effort in from the spot to see the game end 2-0.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Evann Guessand (Nantes)
The hosts began brightly and it was Gauthier Hein that had the first clear-cut opening with a stinging shot from the edge of the box that was pushed to safety by Yehvann Diouf. Diouf was then called into action again to keep out Mathias Autret’s close-range strike. Junya Ito was one of the liveliest players going forward for Reims, and saw his strike go inches wide of the post after being allowed to cut inside the box. Alexis Filps also tested the water with a fierce strike from just outside the area, which was pushed to safety by Ionut Radu, in a relatively even opening 45 minutes.
There were chances at both ends in a frenetic start after the break. Marshall Munetsi's cross-shot flashed just wide of the far post, while Yunis Abdelhamid made an excellent block to thwart Matthis Abline following some fine link-up play with Han-Noah Massengo.
Christophe Pélissier's side were pushing forward in a bid to break the deadlock without causing Diouf too many issues. The Reims shot-stopper made a comfortable save to keep out Hamza Sakhi's strike, and his clean sheet was not really being threatened. William Still’s side seemingly scored a stunning opener when Munetsi's brilliant long-range strike clipped in off the post, but the Zimbabwe international’s goal was chalked off with the provider, Ito, adjudged to be in an offside position - a decision confirmed by VAR.
It was not a vintage performance from Still’s side, but this result extends their impressive unbeaten run to 14 league matches - one away from equalling a club record dating back to 1959. Reims move up one place in the table to 10th, while there is still some fight left in this Auxerre side, who stay 19th and five points adrift of safety.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Yunis Abdelhamid (Stade Reims)
Despite their rock-bottom standing, Angers made a positive start by crafting the first opportunity of the game, as Nabil Bentaleb struck a free-kick from distance only for it to be stopped by Vito Mannone. As expected by the formbook, Lorient gradually grew into the game after a slow start, and very nearly took the lead through Ibrahima Koné, as the Mali international was fastest to react in the box to poke an effort towards goal, but Paul Bernardoni was alert and ready to make the save to keep Angers level.
The visitors were clearly desperate for a result, having started the day eleven points adrift of safety after 13 straight defeats in Ligue 1, and that sense of urgency led them to create the best opportunity of the first half with 10 minutes to go to the break. The chance came from a teasing cross by Batista Mendy that met the head of Ibrahima Niane, only for the Senegalese to see his effort kept out by a fantastic save from Mannone in the Lorient goal.
Angers continued to look for a goal to break their run of five consecutive away league fixtures without a goal. Bentaleb went close again as he forced a save from Mannone, as the Algerian struck an audacious effort from distance that required the goalkeeper to tip it over the bar. Not deterred, the away side continued to press for the opener as the game wore on, against a host side once tipped to challenge for a surprise top-three place.
The next man to go close was Himad Abdelli, who drove a shot towards the near top corner only for Mannone’s reflex save to tip it over the bar. Le SCO managed to see out the game for a well deserved point, though a draw does little for their survival hopes as they still sit ten points adrift of safety. Lorient, meanwhile, are still on track to match their best ever top flight finish in 2009/10, as they sit in 7th and just four points shy of a European berth.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Vito Mannone (Lorient)
Strasbourg - Montpellier 2-0
Coming into the contest four points adrift of safety, and smarting after a heavy defeat to Rennes in midweek, the hosts knew a positive start was needed. But even the most optimistic Strasbourg supporter couldn’t have predicted an opening goal within the first 13 seconds, as a brilliant delivery from Morgan Sanson was volleyed home by Habib Diallo for his ninth goal of the season. After that frantic start, the first half gradually settled into a more mundane affair, with neither side able to stamp their authority on proceedings.
This suited the hosts, who in pursuit of a first clean sheet in the league since September, looked to preserve their slender advantage. However, any hopes of a straightforward end to the half for Le Racing were dealt a major blow, when Jean Eudes-Aholou was dismissed for an ugly challenge on Khalil Fayad. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Strasbourg defied the newly-lengthened odds against them by doubling their advantage on the stroke of HT, as Diallo rounded Benjamin Lecomte to tuck home his second of the afternoon.
Montpellier emerged after the restart desperate to gain a foothold in the contest, but a lack of cutting edge in the final third proved problematic, with Valère Germain and Faitout Maouassa both missing the target from promising positions. Despite their profligacy in front of goal, the visitors continued to press for a goal going into the final 10 minutes, however all attempts were comfortably dealt with, as the Strasbourg rearguard held firm to secure all three points.
It was a well overdue success for the hosts, and the result sees Strasbourg rise to 17th, just one point adrift of safety, while Montpellier remain in 14th, holding a slender two-point cushion over the relegation zone.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Habib Diallo (Strasbourg)