Johnsson error pushes Nantes onto podium
FC Nantes had a big mistake from En Avant Guingamp goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson to thank for a 2-1 win that lifted them into third place on Saturday.
FC Nantes 2-1 En Avant Guingamp
With AS Saint-Etienne losing on Friday and Olympique de Marseille not playing until Sunday, Nantes had a chance to steal a march on the sides locked together with them on 17 points.
That represents Nantes best start to a top-flight season since their title-winning campaign of 94-95, and they made the best possible opening as they sought to extend it. When a corner came in from the right-hand side, Chidozie Awaziem rose to head in his first Nantes goal since arriving on loan from Porto this summer (10').
The Nigerian defender's move to France was part of the deal that took former Nantes coach Sergio Conceiçao to Portugal. That paved the way for Claudio Ranieri to step in at the Stade de la Beaujoire, and the Italian, who celebrated his 66th birthday on Friday, saw his team hold their Breton neighbours relatively comfortably at arm's length.
Bar a near-post header from Abdoul Razzagui Camara (17'), Ciprian Tatarasanu was largely untroubled before the break, while Johnsson at the opposite end must have been relieved to see a Lucas Lima free-kick (29') and a fierce Prejuce Nakoulma drive flash just over (42').
Valentin Rongier should have tested the Sweden international when he broke free on 58 minutes, but the young Nantes midfielder fired over wastefully.
It was a miss that looked all the more costly when Guingamp levelled. Had Rene Krhin been able to take a pass in his stride, Nantes might have been celebrating a second. Instead, in a handful of seconds, Lucas Deaux and Marcus Coco had sent Adoul Razzagui Camara racing goalwards, and he finished clinically (71').
Johnsson had already comfortably fielded a Touré shot from distance (61') and looked like he would do so again when the rangy midfielder tried his luck with Nantes becoming increasingly desperate.
As it turned out, Touré's luck was very much in and Johnsson's completely out as the ball squirmed from his grasp, between his legs and into the net to give Nantes a sixth win in an impressive eight-game unbeaten streak (87').
THE PLAYER: Prejuce Nakoulma
Many had expected the Burkina Faso forward, who had scored his side's equaliser at Bordeaux last weekend, would be replaced by the fit-again Emiliano Sala. Ranieri instead kept faith with the burly striker, and was rewarded with a bullying performance from him, giving better than he got from the Guingamp back four.
THE STAT: 1
Nantes have conceded just one goal in the first halves of their league games this season, fewer than any other team.