Gradel holds nerve to clip Nantes' wings
Max-Alain Gradel scored a penalty five minutes into added time to give struggling Toulouse the boost of a point with a 1-1 draw at home to in-form FC Nantes on Wednesday.
Toulouse FC 1-1 FC Nantes
With the hard-charging OGC Nice held by AS Monaco on Tuesday, Nantes knew a win would see them pull five points clear of the Côte d'Azur outfit in the race for a top-five finish.
Against a Toulouse side that had lost their last three league outings and started the night second-from-bottom, Claudio Ranieri must have been hopeful of doing that even if the hosts' Jimmy Durmaz — with a powerful shot that was straight at Ciprian Tatarusanu — almost drew first blood early on (8').
Nantes soon found their stride though and after Emiliano Sala had miskicked when well-placed, Rene Krhin met Lucas Lima's corner sweetly at the near post to head home his first Ligue 1 Conforama goal (19').
Toulouse responded with a Corentin Jean header that flashed wide (28') before Lucas Lima latched onto an Adrien Thomasson shot parried by Alban Lafont. With only the hosts' promising young 'keeper to beat, the Nantes man fired over wastefully (35').
After the restart, Gradel tested Tatarusanu (55') and Toulouse pressed, notably through substitute Yaya Sanogo. But they looked destined not to find a leveller until Gradel was caught by Tatarusanu deep into added time.
After referee Thomas Leonard had pointed to the spot, Gradel took responsibility himself, and fired high into the net with what proved to be the very last kick of the game (90+6').
THE PLAYER: Max-Alain Gradel
The Ivory Coast international has not been able to fully tap into his undoubted ability very often this season, but he held his nerve brilliantly when it mattered most to earn his team a potentially crucial point.
THE STAT: 5
Five of the last nine meetings between this pair have ended 1-1.