Marseille humbled as Ligue 1 newcomers get off to flying start
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Paris Saint-Germain pulled ahead of their main title rivals at the weekend as newly-promoted Nimes thrashed Marseille and fellow newcomers Reims dispatched Lyon to maintain their fairytale start to life back in Ligue 1.
Goals from Denis Bouanga, Sada Thioub and Renaud Ripart earned Nimes a famous scalp as they secured a 3-1 win over their distinguished southern neighbours in their first home game in the French top flight since the 1992/93 season.
Sunday’s victory came a week after Nimes opened with a 4-3 win at Angers which has lifted the side with the lowest Ligue 1 budget into the unlikely position of second in the table, level on points with the wealthiest team in the league, PSG.
As if this embarrassing loss wasn't punishment enough for Marseille coach Rudi Garcia, he suffered another blow when his World Cup winning keeper Steve Mandanda had to come off with an apparent injured thigh.
Bouanga stunned Garcia's men when he fired the former employers of Eric Cantona into a 34th minute lead, Mustapha Diallo supplying the assist from the left.
The Stade des Costières erupted in celebration to mark the club's first Ligue 1 goal scored at home in 25 years, with the French-born Gabon international inking his name in the club's history just a month after joining from Lorient.
Nimes were in front until four minutes after the restart when Florian Thauvin stylishly completed a move against the run of play begun when Valère Germain intercepted a Nimes free-kick.
Parity lasted until after the hour when Bouanga was at the heart of a counter finished off by Thioub who rounded Mandanda to tap in to an empty net.
Marseille's hopes of salvaging something took a hit when Mandanda came off, with Yohann Pele coming on in the France World Cup winner's place.
Ripart rounded off a magical evening for Nimes three minutes from time to leave Marseille already lagging three points off PSG.
Sunday’s results mean Nimes are now level with Ligue 1’s other newcomers Reims, who shocked Lyon 1-0 on Friday to seal their second successive victory.
A lone goal by Argentine striker Pablo Chavarria was enough for the three points after Reims had opened their campaign last weekend with a 1-0 win over Patrick Vieira's Nice.
"It's a dream start," said Reims goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. "We worked all last season to get here and now that we are here we want to show what we can do.
"After two games against Nice and Lyon, there aren't many people that would have expected us to get six points.
"Since I was little, I dreamed of playing in the elite league. Today is a great reward, but we know it will be a job to keep it up every weekend."
Although Reims clinched the second division title by a sizeable 15 points, they were expected to struggle after selling Brazilian attacking midfielder Diego Rigonato - Ligue 2's best player last season with nine goals and 13 assists - and their top scorer Jordan Siebatcheu.
But they showed their strength at the back after Chavarri’s opening goal, defending in numbers just like they had done last week in Nice.
Lyon had chances to grab a point late in the game but captain Marcelo headed wide of the mark from a Memphis Depay free-kick while a Bertrand Traore attempt was kept out.
"We were trapped," said Lyon midfielder Lucas Tousart. "They defended well and we didn't know how to find a way through their defence."
Monaco pay for penalty miss
In the weekend’s other games, World Cup winner Kylian Mbappé scored twice as title holders PSG completed a second-half comeback to secure a 3-1 win over En Avant Guingamp and move top of the table on goal average.
Dijon joined PSG, Nimes and Reims on six points after beating Nantes 2-0 at home, with striker Julio Tavares supplying both goals.
Last year’s runners-up Monaco were in wasteful mood during their goalless draw with Lille, which saw striker Radamel Falcao miss a penalty to leave his side trailing two points behind the leaders.
Rennes laboured to a 1-0 win against Angers, courtesy of an impressive individual goal by 20-year-old Senegalese forward Ismaila Sarr, seen as one of the league’s most promising talents.
Montpellier midfielder Florent Mollet scored with a powerful drive and created the other goal in a 2-1 win at Amiens, while Nice drew 1-1 at Caen.
And Bordeaux continued their miserable start to the season with a 2-1 defeat in the southwestern derby against Toulouse, with the loss failing to lift spirits at the club after coach Gustavo Poyet was suspended for an angry tirade over the sale of star striker Gaëtan Laborde to rivals Montpellier.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)