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Hat-trick hero Atal steers Nice past Guingamp

Publish on 25/04/2019 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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Youcef Atal was the star of the show as OGC Nice beat bottom club EA Guingamp, bagging a hat-trick in a 3-0 win for Patrick Vieira's European aspirants.

OGC Nice 3-0 EA Guingamp 

THE MATCH

Nice knew that they had to win to keep alive their chances of penetrating the final European places before the end of the season, and they got off to a bright start. Adrien Tameze had already stung Marc-Aurèle Caillard's gloves (8') before Atal opened the scoring, volleying Tameze's cross in off the far post for a stunning fourth goal of the campaign (9'). Guingamp settled after that early shellacking, though, and came close to finding the equaliser when Papy Djilobodji rose highest to meet Pedro Rebocho's cross only to head over (35'). Caillard's opposite number Walter Benitez then watched a Marcus Coco shot fizz wide of his far post (39'). Nice were nonetheless unlucky not to carry a bigger lead into the interval. Malang Sarr found himself unmarked after a hopeful ball into the Guingamp box; his left-footed shot beat Caillard but bounced back off the post (45+2') and the sides went in for the half-time break with the score at 1-0.

The Youcef Atal show 

Whatever Vieira said to his charges at the interval seemed to spur them into action, and they picked up the second half at breakneck pace. Pierre Lees-Melou and Allan Saint-Maximin forced Caillard into smart double save soon after the restart (53'). The hosts' attacking intent nearly backfired when Yeni Ngbakoto fired off target on the counter (57'), but Atal put daylight between Les Aiglons and their visitors soon after, capping off a fine run by finishing low beyond Caillard (68'). Atal the completed his hat-trick five minutes later, meeting Saint-Maximin's cross to tap home from close range (73'). Ngbakoto nearly notched a consolation goal late on when he met a Rebocho corner, but Benitez pushed his shot clear (88'). Tameze could have added gloss to the scoreline with the final kick, but Djilobodji blocked his shot and it ended 3-0.

THE PLAYER: Attal

The standing ovation Atal received from the Allianz Riviera faithful when he went off for Ignatius Ganago late on was nothing if not deserved. The Algeria international was signed as a full-back last summer, but has enjoyed a new lease of life playing wide of a front three in recent weeks. The 22-year-old poked and probed, and was rewarded with his first career hat-trick. He has now scored six goals in 2019, compared to just one before Christmas.

THE STAT: 7

Guingamp have now failed to win any of their last seven away matches in Ligue 1 Conforama, their last win on the road coming against AS Monaco in December. Eight points adrift of safety with only 13 left to play for, the Bretons need to get points on the board soon if they are to avoid a return to Domino's Ligue 2.