VA triumph as duo survive
Grégory Pujol struck twice to ensure Valenciennes ended the season on a high with a 2-1 win over Nice on Sunday as both clubs retained their top-flight status.
Hosts and visitors alike were in danger of finishing the day in the relegation zone, but with Monaco losing, the result at the Stade Nungesser was academic. Pujol troubled the Ligue 1 statisticians with his 16th goal of the campaign to put the hosts ahead three minutes after the break and made that 17 on 69 minutes before Eric Mouloungui pulled one back for the visitors, who ended the season having won one of their last 18 away games.
Only Arles-Avignon had picked up fewer points on their travels than Nice this season, and the south-coast side were predictably toothless in the first half, though they also managed to keep a tight rein on the hosts’ attacking ambitions. Goalkeeper David Ospina must have been relieved to see Milan Bisevac fire narrowly wide after Nice had failed to clear a Gaël Danic corner while the Colombian custodian turned aside Pujol’s near-post header to keep his side level at the break.
Pujol has found a new lease of life in the north this season, and the ex-Nantes forward showed once again why he has developed into one of France’s most dangerous forwards soon after the break. The Nice defence had a helping hand in their own downfall as they failed to clear the danger, and Pujol struck crisply beyond Ospina.
Going a goal down sparked Eric Roy’s side into action and François Clerc had a chance to level before the ex-Lyon full-back was involved in a move that led to Didier Digard feeding Anthony Mounier, who extended Nicolas Penneteau in the hosts’ goal.
Nice lack a striker of the quality of Pujol, though, and the difference a top-class goalscorer makes to a side was evident once again as the rangy forward doubled his team’s lead – expertly heading home Danic’s pinpoint cross with the visiting defence static.
Though Mouloungui raced clear to beat Penneteau in the closing stages, it could not prevent Valenciennes registering a first win in four league games. Nice, however, will not have been too concerned as they too will be in Ligue 1 next season after finishing a place and two points above the bottom three.