Ajorque gives Strasbourg lift-off
By D. Crossan
Ludovic Ajorque's late penalty helped Strasbourg to their first Ligue 1 Conforama win of the season, defeating Nantes 2-1 as Les Canaris missed out on the chance of going top of the table.
RC Strasbourg Alsace 2-1 FC Nantes
Nantes had enioyed their best start to a season since 2003-2004 and Christian Gourcuff's side would have soared to first place in the standings with victory at La Meinau. This was already Strasbourg's 12th competitive match of the season and with no more European distractions it was time for Thierry Laurey's players to start putting points on the board.
The Coupe de la Ligue winners' last league success had been against Nantes on the final day of last season and the hosts had a chance (25') when Lamine Koné volleyed over from the penalty spot. Nantes took the lead (28') when Kenny Lala didn't deal with Charles Traoré's deflected cross and the in-form Kalifa Coulibaly scored from six yards out. It was the giant Malian forward's ninth goal in his last 15 league outings.
Nantes nearly increased their lead (33') when Ludovic Blas fired narrowly over and then Mehdi Abeid (41') failed to connect with a Moses Simon cut-back. Having conceded first at home for the 10th time in 12 games, Strasbourg needed a reaction and Dimitri Liénard (50') - on at the break for Alexander Djiku - let fly with a powerful shot.
Local hero Liénard (66') had La Meinau jumping as visiting defender Andrei Girotto inadvertently played the midfielder the ball and Liénard lined up an angled shot that beat Alban Lafont. Two minutes from time Strasbourg were awarded a penalty when Jean-Ricner Bellegarde was fouled by Imran Louza. Ajorque side-footed the ball home left-footed as Lafont went the wrong way and Strasbourg almost added a third (90+2') through substitute Lebo Mothiba.
THE PLAYER: Ludovic Ajorque
Ajorque ended up victorious in the battle of the big strikers, even if Coulibaly did net his customary goal. Having scored nine times in the league last season after joining from Clermont, Ajorque will hope his first goal of the new campaign will see the goals start to flow.
THE STAT: 1148
Thierry Laurey has been in charge of Strasbourg for 1148 days, a new club record, eclipsing the old mark set by Gilbert Gress between 1977 and 1980. Gress won Strasbourg's solitary league title in 1979.