ROUND-UP: Africans in Ligue 1 – Week 17
The surprise package of the Ligue 1 campaign has undoubtedly been Angers and a lot of praise should be heaped on one player who has been pivotal to their success; Cheikh N’Doye has led by example thus far and showcased his profound leadership credentials and footballing ability once again with a brace against Lyon.
Africa Football Shop’s Ligue 1 correspondent, Jamie Barlow, reports all the action; including how Casimir Ninga ran the show for Montpellier, scoring twice in his team’s 2-2 draw away at Marseille.
Cheikh N’Doye dampened the party atmosphere which assembled at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland before kick-off in Les Gones’ final game at their home stadium before the club’s switch to the Stade des Lumieres in January. The home fans’ positive spirits were short-lived, though, Angers’ skipper gave his side the lead on 17 minutes when the big Senegalese midfielder rose highest to direct a header into the bottom corner from Thomas Mangani’s free-kick. The home side were threatening throughout the duration of the encounter but were unable to provide the finishing touch in front of goal. When Lyon did find the net, however, Alexandre Lacazette was ruled off-side as he fashioned a half-volley which thundered past Lodovic Butelle. To rub salt in Lyon’s wounds, N’Doye – previously without a goal in six – grabbed his second of the game and fifth of the season, netting from Billy Ketkeophomphone’s corner ten minutes from time.
A double from Casimir Ninga earned Montpellier a 2-2 draw away at Marseille. Chad international Ninga started and finished a move, the forward playing a neat one-two with Ryad Boudebouz before ghosting past the Marseille defence and toe-poking home his first just after the half-hour mark. Les Phocéens were relieved to take a point from the clash at the Stade Velodrome, twice coming from behind as first Remy Cabella and then Bouna Sarr pegged back the visitors. In between Ninga’s first and Cabella’s equaliser, the Chadian forward helped himself to his second of the match and fifth of the season after capitalising on some mediocre defending from the home side, before sending goalkeeper Steve Mandanda the wrong way from short-range. The draw leaves Marseille ninth in the table, having failed to win any of their last six league games at home, while Montpellier are 16th, one point clear of the relegation zone.
Two second-half goals from Lacina Traore were enough to provide Monaco a first win in three, despite the principality side conceding a late goal to Bastia’s Julien Romain. The home side went mightily close to taking the lead when Julian Palmieri, making a rampaging run down the left, was played in before hitting his effort straight at the palms of Danijel Subasic. Monaco, themselves, nearly took the lead moments later when a header by Adama Traoré grazed the post. Traoré’s namesake, Lacina, broke the deadlock 20 minutes from time when Fabinho jinxed his way into the penalty area, dragged the ball back to dumbfound the Bastia defence before playing a deft-touch to the unmarked Ivornian, who had amble time to clinically dispatch. The African talisman was in the right place at the right time to notch his second of the game following Nabil Dirar’s headed knock-down. Traore, who has only made 20 appearances in two and a half years, made up for lost time with his brace.
Lorient ended a run of three winless games after Algeria international Walid Mesloub secured the maximum points haul in his side’s 3-2 victory at Toulouse. The home side took the lead just before the break when Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro headed Oscar Trejo’s corner into Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik’s path and the Cameroon international finished at the back post past the helpless Benjamin Lecomte. That effort marked the defender’s second of the campaign. Lorient hit back minutes after the half-time interval when Benjamin Jeannot’s left-footed shot converted Maxime Barthelme’s low cross, before the French forward hit the target for the second time a minute later when his long-range strike beat Alban Lafont, who will be disappointed not to have done better. Wissam Ben Yedder equalised for Toulouse at the back post after great work from Zinedine Machach before Walid Mesloub scored the winner for Lorient in the 76th minute. The player remained cool in the box to score his first Ligue 1 goal after good work by Benjamin Moukandjo caused havoc in the area.
In other news, Dr Congo international, John Tshibumbu, rescued a late point for Ajaccio in his side’s 1-1 draw at home to Nantes. Trailing, after Argentine forward Emiliano Sala headed the visitors into the lead on 56 minutes, Tshibumbu connected with a sweet volley to equalise and score in his second consecutive outing.