Cvitanich helps Nice to five-star display
By I. Holyman
Dario Cvitanich scored twice as OGC Nice raced into the top five in the table with a thumping 5-0 win over a lacklustre Valenciennes FC on Sunday.
OGC Nice 5 -0 Valenciennes FC
Nice had won their last five L1 home games, and cruised to a sixth after Cvitanich had bent home a superb opener in the dying seconds of the first half. Renato Civelli stabbed home from close range to double his side's advantage just before the hour mark and Valentin Esseyric then added a magnificent third soon after (64'). Cvitanich sidefooted home number four (79') - his 12th of the season - before teeing up Didier Digard to cap a fine individual display with a fifth (87'), which takes Claude Puel's men level on points with fourth-placed Girondins de Bordeaux.
The in-form team of the last two months in France and boasting a formidable home record, Nice should have been confident, but a Gaëtan Bong snap-shot – comfortably enough dealt with by Joris Delle, in goal for the suspended David Ospina – and a break forward by José Saez, teed up cleverly by Anthony Le Tallec, suggested the hosts they might not have things all their own way.
Valenciennes, however, generally struggle on their travels, and though the persistent rain on the south coast should not have worried them, it seemed to quickly dampen their initial enthusiasm.
Cvitanich's immaculate close control caused panic in the visitors' penalty area before Rudy Mater hacked clear, and Valentin Esseyric, no doubt buoyed by having sealed a permanent move to Nice earlier in the week, fired a shot wide of Nicolas Penneteau's goal. The Valenciennes stalwart, born just along the coast in Marseille, then saw Kevin Diaz twice fire goalwards, and though the first sailed harmlessly over, the second required Penneteau to move smartly down low at his near post.
There was nothing he could do though as Cvitanich broke the deadlock. Once again, the former Ajax forward's first touch was excellent, but he then twisted away from Nicolas Isimat-Mirin before bending a delightful shot into the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the box. It was the first, but not the last time the striker would show his current worth far outstrips the reported €400,000 Nice paid for him last summer.
The Argentine would have been proud of the predatory instincts shown by compatriot Civelli when Valenciennes failed to clear a free-kick - the big centre-back stabbing home from close range after Isimat-Mirin had got himself in a tangle. Penneteau was soon beaten again, though this time there was no blame attached. Esseyric might have been closed down more quickly, but the 20-year-old midfielder's ferociously-struck shot, which arrowed into the top corner, would have beaten most if not all goalkeepers.
Valenciennes had struck three goals in defeat to second division FC Istres in the French Cup last weekend, but barely looked like finding the net once during a miserable 90 minutes. The closest they came was when Le Tallec, woefully deprived of service, latched onto a loose ball and saw his shot squirm underneath Delle but only find the side-netting.
Nice, and Cvitanich in particular, were not in such forgiving mood. When Jérémy Pied released Timothée Kolodziejczak, the full-back's low cross was clinically swept beyond Penneteau by Cvitanich, a step ahead of his markers as he was throughout.
He even showed his unselfish streak when he peeled out wide, holding up the ball before Digard arrived from midfield - once in possession, the former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder took a touch before firing low through the legs of Bong and past the unsighted Penneteau for only his second L1 goal in Nice colours.