Paris Saint-Germain can count themselves fortunte to escape the Allianz Riviera with a mere one-goal defeat as they were dominated by a Nice side who fully deserved their victory.
In a game where their ferocious front three were kept unsuaully quiet, Kylian Mbappe was sorely missed through his suspension as Angel di Maria, Lionel Messi and Neymar all struggled to grow into the game.
Nice had the better of the encounter, and more pertinently, the chances, as Amine Gouiri went close early on with two chances inside the opening six minutes, at first forcing Keylor Navas into a save at the near post with a poked effort, and then curling just wide four minutes later after being set through by a combination of Kasper Dolberg and Khephren Thuram.
Pablo Rosario steered a header over the bar when really he should have done better after a Melvin Bard delivery from the left, but that wasn’t before Di Maria was stopped brilliantly by his compatriot Walter Benitez, who got a fingertip to a chipped finish to a superb counter that the Argentinian winger led all by himself from an initial Nice corner.
Dolberg was wasteful in front of goal with his numerous half-chances, and Messi and Neymar continued to complain about fair challenges from home defenders who marshalled them well.
The referee took some flack from the home supporters as he appeared to be more than favourable to the league leaders in most of his decisions, but any sort of bias would come to no avail, as Nice would have the last laugh.
Two substitutes linked up for the hosts: Calvin Stengs’ wondrous cross found Andy Delort at the far post, and the former Wigan Atheltic striker fired home to give Le Gym an unlikely victory.
An opportunity just about taken at the last for Christophe Galter’s side, but work must be done by Mauricio Pochettino as his team, with one eye on Wednesday’s trip to Madrid, looked hesitant in both offense and defence… and that can’t happen if they are to win Europe’s most coveted prize.
TALKING POINT – PROFESSIONAL NICE, POOR PARIS
It was a classy display from the hosts, and it was better late than never when Delort stepped off the bench to fire them to three huge points in their chase for the Champions League.
They were dominant defensively, they won the midfield battle, and they finally had the bite to finish their opposition off with a goal worthy of winning any match.
Supersubs Stengs and Delort were the matchwinners, but it would be harsh not to give credit to the two central defenders, as well as Amine Gouiri, with all three playing pivotal roles.
Nice: Benitez 6, Daniliuc 7, Dante 7, Todibo 7, Bard 5, Rosario 6, Lemina 5, Thuram 8, Kluivert 6, Dolberg 5, Gouiri 7, Delort 7, Schneiderlin 6, Lotomba 6, Stengs 7, Boudaoui 6.
Paris: Navas 6, Kehrer 6, Marquinhos 6, Diallo 6, Bernat 6, Danilo 6, Verratti 6, Wijnaldum 5, Di Maria 6, Messi 5, Neymar 5, Icardi 6, Draxler 6, Gueye 6.
MAN OF THE MATCH – KHEPHREN THURAM, NICE
What a talent.
The dynamism and trickery of the 20-year old was exemplary as he showed great professionalism and composure in and out of possession.
He deserves his own praise aside from his team-mates, as he was the best player on the pitch before he was taken off, and more importantly, he showed his versatiity on the left flank despite his strongest position being in the middle of the park.
He excited the home fans whenever he got on the ball, and was the driving force that Le Gym needed to get the momentum that would ultimately win them the game
2′: GOOD SAVE! Excellent start from the hosts as it’s worked for Gouiri, whose shot forces Navas into a save at his near post!
6′: CLOSE! Gouiri again is set up by Thuram and Dolberg neatly, and opening his body up, he looks to bend it into the far corner, but it’s just wide with Navas scrambling!
9′: CLEARED AWAY… … and here’s the break, with di Maria! He bears down on goal, and Benitez with a fingertip diverts the chipped finish behind. The resulting corner is cleared and Paris rebuild.
24′: GREAT CHANCE! A better ball this time from Bard down the left, and Rosario arrives late, but steers the header high and wide!
84′: IN ON GOAL! Kluivert races free, here’s the chance… but his finish is tame and straight at Navas!
88′: GOALLLL!!!! How about that! Delort this time!!!! Stengs the creator, Delort with a finisher at the far post! Fully deserved, 1-0!