René Marsiglia's first match in charge of Nice proved to be a disaster, with Les Aiglons ending with eight men in a 2-0 defeat to Saint-Etienne. Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Kurt Zouma got the goals.
OGC Nice 0-2 AS Saint-Etienne
After being promoted to the role of coach following a midweek reshuffle that saw predecessor Eric Roy move upstairs to become the club’s general manager, Marsiglia must have been hoping that his first game as a coach in Ligue 1 would be one to remember. It was, but for all the wrong reasons.
David Ospina, Eric Mouloungui and Renato Civelli were all sent-off for the hosts, as a Sinama-Pongolle penalty and a Zouma header handed Sainté their first win in ten meetings with their bogey side. The result moves Les Verts on to 20 points, consolidating their place in the top half of the table, while Nice drop into the relegation zone after losing at home for the first time since the opening day of the campaign.
Marsiglia had said they he wouldn’t change much after replacing Roy at the helm, and he stuck to his word. Only two alterations were made to the team that lost 2-0 at Marseille prior to the international break, with Larrys Mabiala and Franck Dja Djedje replacing the banned Anthony Mounier and François Clerc, who had been a pre-match injury doubt.
For the visitors, whose only defeat in their last seven league outings had been in the Rhône derby at Lyon, Jérémy Clément replaced suspended France under-21 star Josuha Guilavogui. Paulão - who had been a pre-match worry with an ankle problem - started in central defence, but lasted less than ten minutes before having to make way for Zouma.
Before that blow, Nice had already come close to taking the lead when Stéphane Ruffier dived acrobatically to keep out a Civelli header, and then denied Fabián Monzón and Mouloungui in quick succession.
But just as it threatened to be a long night for the visitors, they were handed the chance to take the lead midway through the first-half. Deep inside his own half, Civelli gifted possession straight to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who ran in on goal before being brought down by Ospina. Referee Ruddy Buquet had no option but to send off the Colombian ‘keeper, leaving Nice with ten men. Raúl Fernández came on for his debut in goal, but his first job was to pick the ball out of the net from Sinama-Pongolle’s resulting penalty. It was Sinama’s first goal in Ligue 1 since playing for Le Havre back in 2002-03.
A difficult situation had become impossible for Nice before the interval, with Mouloungui shown a straight red for a challenge on Fabien Lemoîne, before Zouma escaped the attentions of marker Civelli all too easily as he headed in a left-wing corner for his first ever senior goal at the tender age of 17.
However, Marsiglia will be pleased with the way in which his men stuck together in the second half to stop Saint-Etienne running away with the game. Banel Nicolita blazed high and wide from a Laurent Batlles through ball from the visitors’ only chance of note after the break, although a miserable night for Nice, and Civelli in particular, was complete four minutes from time when the Argentine was dismissed for a tackle from behind on Sinama-Pongolle.