Caen turn Da Silva into goals to beat Nantes
Damien Da Silva was SM Caen's unlikely hero as the centre-back scored twice in a 3-2 win over FC Nantes on Sunday to help ease the Normandy club away from the relegation zone.
SM Caen 3-2 FC Nantes
Neither side came into the game with much form. Caen had lost three of their last four to slip worryingly close to the bottom three; Nantes' 2018 has started slowly with just one victory in their last four, a run that has allowed their pursuers to close to within touching distance of fifth place and seen the top four pull well clear.
Still, Claudio Ranieri's men came into the game with 37 points, Nantes' best tally since they last won the Ligue 1 Conforama title in 2000/01, and the visitors started bullishly.
Valentin Rongier's dangerous ball into the box almost fell for Adrien Thomasson (4') while the latter's free-kick then provided Nicolas Pallois with a shooting chance - the former Girondins de Bordeaux man's effort was blocked (25').
A Koffi Djidji volley was turned away by Rémy Vercoutre (27') before the veteran 'keeper was finally beaten. Emiliano Sala's close control provided the opportunity, the big Argentine holding off a quartet of home players before feeding the ball into the path of Yacine Bammou, who himself shrugged off former Nantes man Vincent Bessat before delivering a crisp finish (31').
Nantes were not able to enjoy their lead for long. Referee Karim Abed pointed to the spot whne Leo Dubois barged recklessly into Enzo Crivelli, who was making his Caen debut, and Ivan Santini duly slotted home his fifth penalty of the campaign (35').
The Croatia international has been a regular source of goals for Caen, but it was Da Silva, the hosts' inspirational centre-back, who proved the difference between the two sides after the break.
The 29-year-old strangely found himself in space when Stef Peeters' corner came into the penalty area on 53 minutes, and Da Silva promptly bulleted a header beyond Ciprian Tatarasanu, powerless to do anything other than watch the ball flash into the net (53').
But for brave blocks Peeters and Ronny Rodelin (54') might have extended that lead, and Nantes rode their luck to bounce back and level through Bammou, fed neatly by Thomasson before finishing smartly on the half-volley (57').
Thomasson then sent a shot fizzing narrowly over (64') before Da Silva tipped the game decisively and definitively in Caen's favour. This time, a Peeters corner was flicked on by Rodelin at the near post, but the result was the same - Da Silva hurling himself to score with a diving header (80') to put five points between his club and 18th-placed LOSC Lille.
THE PLAYER: Damien Da Silva
Unsung but oh so vital to Caen, the former Bordeaux youth academy man has developed into an accomplished Ligue 1 Conforama performer, despite only making his top-flight debut in his mid-20s. With three goals already this season, 2017/18 is the most prolific of his career.
THE STAT: 1
This was Caen's first home win of the year - they had not celebrated a three-point haul at the Stade Michel d'Ornano since 25 November and their 1-0 triumph against Bordeaux.