Sala strike sends Nantes back into fifth
Emiliano Sala headed home four minutes from time to give FC Nantes a hard-earned 1-0 win over ESTAC Troyes on Saturday and move Les Canaris into fifth place in the table.
FC Nantes 1-0 ESTAC Troyes
Winless in five, Nantes knew they should take the opportunity of playing host to the side third-from-bottom of the table to give their European ambitions a shot in the arm.
Yacine Bammou tested Erwin Zelazny early on with an angled shot (10') and Sala also brought a save from the visiting goalkeeper with a header (21') as Claudio Ranieri's men sought to pick up their first home win since December.
But Troyes had the better of the first-half opportunities. Adama Niané, restored to the starting line-up did superbly well to win possession and then pick out the run of Benjamin Nivet, who headed against a post (22').
The 41-year-old veteran, who was the star of the show before the interval, then slipped a delightful ball into the feet of Samuel Grandsir, who sent his low drive into the side-netting (30').
Ranieri's half-time reshuffle brought better reward after the break. Sala fired wide (57') and an Abdoulaye Touré shot ricocheted off the head of former Nantes man Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and just past the post with Zelazny helplessly wrong-footed (61').
Sala might have scored earlier had he not completely miscued a header (71'), but when Léo Dubois hung up a cross to the back post, the former Girondins de Bordeaux and SM Caen forward had — for once — found space inside the six-yard box, and this time connected sweetly (86') to repeat his late match-winning heroics from when the teams had met earlier in the season.
THE PLAYER: Emiliano Sala
The Argentine forward may not be the prettiest performer, but he is mightily effective, and his 12th goal of the league campaign could be the most important yet. With Nantes' next highest scorer only on three goals, where would Ranieri's men be without their number 9?
THE STAT: 13
Nantes are unbeaten in 13 Ligue 1 Conforama matches at home to Troyes, winning ten of them.