Ligue 1 roundup: Three Balogun salute keeps Reims firing

Ligue 1 roundup: Three Balogun salute keeps Reims firing
Reims celebrate their comeback
Reims celebrate their comeback
Folarin Balogun’s hat-trick saw Stade de Reims come from behind to defeat a Lorient side aiming for a first European campaign in 20 years, making it 13 matches unbeaten since the appointment of Will Still with a pulsating 4-2 victory.

Reims - Lorient 4-2

Whatever Will Still, a self-proclaimed Football Manager addict said in the build-up quickly went out of the window, when his side got off to the worst possible start. Enzo Le Fée opened the scoring for the visitors in the 11th minute, courtesy of Yehvann Diouf’s fumbled save, which left him with a simple opener. Taking full advantage of their momentum, Lorient made it 2-0 through Ibrahima Koné in the 36th minute, as the striker fired home an unstoppable effort into the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the area, setting Les Merlus on course for three points.

But Reims showed they had other ideas, when Balogun halved the deficit from the spot in the 44th minute. A rough challenge on Dion Lopy inside the area saw Reims get a much-needed penalty, and Balogun bravely slotted down the middle of Mannone’s goal, netting his 10th successful conversion from 13 all-time career penalties at a crucial juncture in the game.

Full of momentum, Reims came out swinging in the second-half, and soon equalised through Kamory Doumbia. He did brilliantly to find the bottom left-hand corner from outside of the area, after expertly weaving past a couple of flailing challenges in the 51st minute. With no cheat codes and only their guile to utilise, Reims completed their comeback in the 61st minute, as Balogun netted his brace superbly after latching onto Junya Ito’s lofted pass.

Not finished there, Balogun then completed his hat-trick in the 64th minute, unleashing a left-footed effort from the inside of the area into the bottom right-hand corner to seal a 4-2 victory for Reims and go provisionally top of the Ligue 1 goal scoring charts. More importantly, Still’s side are now 13-matches unbeaten and within six points of seventh-placed Lorient in the Ligue 1 standings, with the coach’s assertion that ‘no UEFA Pro license equals no problem’ ringing truer than ever.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Folarin Balogun (Stade de Reims)

Angers - Ajaccio 1-2

Hoping to finally bring a conclusion to a staggering 12-match losing streak - the joint-most successive defeats since the inception of Ligue 1 in 2002 - Angers drew first blood in a mid-season relegation six-pointer after 13 minutes. Left out of the matchday squad for the 4-0 defeat at Brest, Abdallah Sima justified his recall to the Les Scoïstes starting XI by firing in the game’s opening goal under the body of a disappointed François-Joseph Sollacaro.

Just like their hosts, ​​Ajaccio also face the perils of a relegation battle this season but they did not let their heads drop and were  millimetres away from an immediate equaliser when Riad Nouri’s effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Pursuing a first league victory since a 1-0 success at Nice back in the middle of September, Bouhazama’s side continued to look the more likely to add to the scoresheet before HT, as Adrien Hunou forced Sollacaro into a smart save.

Needing a drastic improvement in the second half, Youcef Belaïli wasted a glorious opportunity to level the match in the 53rd minute, blazing his mistimed effort straight into the stands. Bouhazama then made the surprising decision to withdraw Sima shortly after the hour-mark to the less-than-impressed reaction of the game’s opening goalscorer. Unfortunately, that decision didn’t have the desired effect, as only three minutes later, Moussa Soumano equalised for Ajaccio within less than a minute after coming off the substitutes’ bench. Angers were then reduced to ten men in the 78th minute when Souleyman Doumbia’s yellow card was upgraded to a straight red via the assistance of VAR.

With the match looking likely to end in a share of the spoils, the host's numerical disadvantage proved to be their downfall when Mounaïm El Idrissy converted from close-range in the 94th minute. Late heartbreak leaves Angers with the unwanted record of the most successive defeats (13) in a single Ligue 1 campaign. Meanwhile, Ajaccio remain in the relegation zone on only goal difference alone after registering their first league victory since the concluding stages of 2022.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Mounaïm El Idrissy (AC Ajaccio)

Lille - Clermont 0-0

While the scoreline may have been level at the break, there were still plenty of chances for both sides to mull over in their respective dressing rooms. In just their second-ever Ligue 1 campaign, it was Clermont who took the game to Lille early on, with Saîf-Eddine Khaoui striking the woodwork from long-range after just seven minutes. At the opposite end, Lille would come closer with an arguably better chance. This time for Timothy Weah, who swept the ball goalwards after an intelligent cutback, but the American international's shot was lame and failed to trouble Mory Diaw in the Clermont goal.

After the break, it was no different, with Lille continuing their relentless pressure on the Clermont goal. Weah flashed a shot just wide of the post from a promising position, while Jonathan Bamba did manage to find the target, but only for goalkeeper Diaw smothered his driven strike. Despite having their backs against the wall, the away side were afforded momentary attacks, with Clermont unfortunate not to have taken the lead midway through the half themselves. Perhaps the best opening up until that point, Elbasan Rashani looked destined to find the net from six yards out, yet Lille goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier was there to charge the attacker down and prevent a certain tap-in.

In truth, a point each is probably the fairest reflection for a contest that was end-to-end, but ultimately lacked a real moment of quality. It sees Clermont consolidate their position in mid-table, with some suggestions the Lancers hold an outside chance of European qualification - something they have never managed in their entire history. However, as for Lille, who are often regulars on the continental scene, they fall even further behind the European positions, with plenty of work left to do in the remaining part of the season, should they wish to finish inside the top five.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Saîf-Eddine Khaoui (Clermont Foot)

Nantes - Marseille 0-2

Both sides came into the encounter in good form in front of a sparkling crowd at the Stade de la Beaujoire. Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet was again kept on the bench as fellow veteran Alexis Sánchez had the game’s first attempt on goal which was easily saved by Canaries goalkeeper Alban Lafont. The Nantes captain had seen his defence keep seven successive clean sheets in all competitions, but he was called into action once more to comfortably deny Ruslan Malinovskyi’s low shot as the visitors looked to flex their muscles.

Clearly, title hopefuls Marseille were the better side in the first period with the hosts relying on sporadic counter-attacks. One rare foray forward from Nantes saw Moses Simon in a good position inside the penalty area, only for his shot to be blocked and cleared. Ignatius Ganago, who was still searching for his first Ligue 1 goal since October, had Nantes’ best opportunity with a flicked header which went inches wide just after HT.

Marseille coach Igor Tudor will likely have been looking for more of the same from his side after the break, however Jordan Veretout didn’t get the memo, missing the target for the visitors when placed clear. That disappointment didn’t last long though, as OM broke the deadlock shortly before the hour-mark. A driving run by Nuno Tavares forced João Victor to inadvertently flick the ball under Lafont’s legs for an own goal to gift the visitors the lead and see Nantes concede their first goal in over 700 minutes.

Despite a flurry of susbtitutions, Nantes were unable to plot a route back into the game and fell further behind in stoppage-time as Azzedine Ounahi marked his Marseille debut with a clinical finish to wrap up the points. The hosts tasted defeat for the first time since the season's resumption. A return to Europe next season remains unlikely with Antoine Kombouaré’s men stranded in mid-table.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Nuno Tavares (Olympique de Marseille

Toulouse - Troyes 4-1

Coming into the contest on the back of a four-match unbeaten run in the league, Toulouse made a confident start, with Branco van den Boomen firing a dangerous free-kick narrowly wide of the post. Despite their early promise, the hosts were caught cold in the 12th minute, when Maxime Dupé dallied on the ball for too long and tripped Mama Baldé inside the box. Having earned the penalty, the winger dusted himself off and fired the resulting spot-kick beyond Dupé to give Troyes the early advantage.

Undeterred by the setback, Toulouse restored parity just four minutes later, as Brecht Dejaegere and van den Boomen combined brilliantly to set up Thijs Dallinga, who finished in clinical fashion for his sixth goal in as many games. With the scores level, both sides looked to stamp their authority on proceedings before HT, and it was Le Téfécé who were rewarded with a second goal, as Farès Chaïbi directed van den Boomen’s corner into the bottom-right corner.

Armed with the momentum, Toulouse looked to press home their advantage in the early stages of the second half, and were given a golden opportunity to extend their lead when Yoann Salmier fouled Stijn Spierings inside the area. Having set up both of his side’s goals, van den Boomen assumed the responsibility from the spot, and confidently dispatched the penalty beyond the reach of Gauthier Gallon.

With time ticking into the final 20 minutes, the visitors desperately searched for a route back into the contest. However, Toulouse - with just one defeat in their last seven league matches on home soil - continued to look the more threatening of the two sides, and added late gloss to the scoreline when substitute Ado Onaiwu headed home from close range. The result sees Toulouse rise into the top half of the Ligue 1 table, while Troyes remain 15th, just one point clear of the relegation zone.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Branco van den Boomen (Toulouse)


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