Lille's attacking potential was on full display as Marcelo Bielsa's new team thrashed the Canaries 3-0 on Sunday, ruining Claudio Ranieri’s much-trumpeted return to the French league.
After finishing a disappointing eleventh last season, Lille hired the Argentinian coach – known as "El Loco Bielsa" (Crazy Bielsa) to his fans – with the aim of returning to the Champions League while playing an exciting brand of football.
The northern club also recruited more than a dozen new players, and the squad appears to have gelled.
Facing an unimaginative side, Lille dominated from the start but had to wait until the 48th minute to open the score through Paraguay defender Junior Alonso. Nicolas De Préville then doubled his team's lead from the spot and Anwar El Ghazi put the win beyond doubt.
The match had been billed as a duel between Bielsa and Italian manager Claudio Ranieri. Both have returned to the French top flight after spending several years away.
Bielsa guided Marseille to a fourth-place finish in 2015 while Ranieri – who famously led English club Leicester to the Premier League title in 2016 – helped Monaco win the second division title in his first season, and then finish runner-up in the top flight in the 2013-14 season.
With better players at his disposal following Lille's ambitious recruiting campaign this summer, Bielsa's team were in control from the start on Sunday.
The northerners imposed a fast tempo by pressing high on the pitch – the Argentinian's trademark – and created several chances in the opening stages with fast moves down the flanks that caught out the Nantes back four.
"We played a high-energy match, on a fast rhythm, and we made only a few fouls," Bielsa said. "I believe that we deserved the goals we scored, and that it is a fair result. Let's see if we can keep that rhythm and speed we want to play with throughout the whole season."
Njie scores two for Marseille
Elsewhere, Marseille got their campaign off to a winning start with another 3-0 rout, though they struggled in the first half to overcome Dijon's intense pressing.
The hosts showed more intent after the interval, Clinton Njie opening the score in the 51st minute with a diving header at the near post from newly signed Valère Germain's cross.
Florian Thauvin doubled their lead soon after on the break before Njie scored his second goal. The former Lyon player was set up down the left flank, ran inside and passed a defender with a nutmeg before his deflected shot went over goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet into the net.
Summer signing Baptiste Guillaume scored a late goal to secure a 2-2 draw for Angers against Bordeaux in their season-opener.
Angers took the lead in the 11th minute when Angelo Fulgini, another player hired during the offseason, slotted home between the legs of Benoît Costil for his first goal in the top flight.
Younousse Sankharé leveled for Bordeaux and – on a day of strong performances by newly signed players – Alexandre Mendy gave the visitors the lead from Malcolm's assist.
Bordeaux looked in control afterward but conceded with two minutes left when Costil could only parry away a shot from Karl Toko Ekambi into Guillaume's path.
Fireworks for Neymar
Sunday’s results leave Lyon top of Ligue 1 on goal difference after their inspired 4-0 rout of newly promoted Strasbourg on Saturday.
Also on three points are Paris Saint-Germain, who treated fans to a fireworks display as they unveiled world-record signing Neymar before their 2-0 win over Amiens at the Parc des Princes.
PSG fans greet Neymar at the Parc des Princes
The Brazilian star did a lap of honour before watching from the stands as his new teammates overpowered the puny visitors.
Amiens have the smallest budget of the league with €25 million – not much more than a tenth of what the Qatari-owned Parisian behemoth paid for Neymar.
PSG's main rivals Monaco opened their title defence with a 3-2 win over Toulouse a day earlier, while last year’s third-placed Nice slipped to a 1-0 defeat in Saint-Etienne.
In other games, Metz were beaten 3-1 at home by Guingamp, Troyes and Rennes settled for a 1-1 draw, and Montpellier edged Caen 1-0.
It was an emotional night in Montpellier as the players gathered and raised their fingers toward the sky in a tribute to the club’s late president Louis Nicollin, who helped produce one of the biggest upsets in French football when his unfancied team won the league in 2012.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2017-08-07