Lille off to best French league start in 66 years
PARIS (AP) — After struggling last season, Lille is transformed.
The northern side earned a fourth win in six matches to move to second place in the French league, within two points of Paris Saint-Germain, after a 2-1 result against Nantes on Saturday.
Lille has won its three home games this season and is off to its best start in the league since 1952.
Lille fought off relegation last season. It’s recruiting in the offseason has paid dividends so far, as Jose Fonte and Jonathan Ikone, who were both hired in the summer, made the scoresheet at Pierre Mauroy Stadium.
Fonte helped Portugal win the 2016 European Championship and started all four of their games at the World Cup. His much-needed injection of experience helped him score his first league goal and set up Ikone’s against Nantes.
Fonte headed home a corner at the far post early on, and in the second half Ikone connected with Fonte’s header 25 meters from goal and fired a left-foot shot into the top corner.
“I noticed nobody came out to press and I took my chance,” said Ikone, who joined Lille from Montpellier. “It’s the best goal (of my career). I have not scored so many goals, and this one is a beauty.”
Substitute Kalifa Coulibaly pulled one back late for Nantes, which has won only one game and stands just one point above the relegation zone.
PSG plays on Sunday at Rennes aiming to stay perfect.
HOME WIN AT LAST
Montpellier extended its unbeaten run to five games and earned a first home win in seven months, moving to third place after beating Nice 1-0.
Despite Mario Balotelli’s return, Nice was harmless up front.
Montpellier dominated throughout. The first-half goal was well deserved through Gaetan Laborde. His maiden goal in a Montpellier shirt, was also his first since Feb. 3 when playing with Bordeaux.
Saint-Etienne 2, Caen 1; Angers 0, Toulouse 0; Reims 0, Dijon 0; Strasbourg 3, Amiens 1.