PARIS: Mickael Le Bihan enjoyed a dream return from 18 months out injured by coming on to score twice as Ligue 1 title hopefuls Nice came from behind to beat Montpellier 2-1 on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Steve Mounie had given Montpellier an early lead at the Allianz Riviera but Le Bihan was introduced just before the hour mark and equalized in the 68th minute.
He then scored the winner with four minutes to go as Nice moved level on points with leaders Monaco, and three points clear of defending champions Paris Saint-Germain in third before the rest of the weekend’s games.
Le Bihan, 26, had not played for Nice since September 2015 due to a series of injuries, most notably a broken leg.
Indeed, he had only made three top-flight appearances in his career but he came back at the perfect moment with Lucien Favre’s side missing leading scorers Alassane Plea and Mario Balotelli due to injury and suspension respectively.
“It’s mad, crazy,” Le Bihan told Canal Plus Sport. “Just coming on was beautiful and to score twice, there could be nothing better.
“When you are out for 18 months so many things go through your mind,” he added.
Balotelli was serving an automatic ban after being sent off in last week’s win at Lorient while Plea was ruled out for the rest of the season earlier this week due to a knee injury.
Between them they had scored 20 of Nice’s 42 league goals coming into this game and Favre’s side were up against it when they fell behind inside nine minutes.
Arnaud Souqet’s attempted clearance came off teammate Wylan Cyprien and fell for Mounie to smash in his 11th goal of the season at the back post.
Young Greek forward Anastasios Donis had been handed a first Ligue 1 start in attack for the hosts and he curled a shot just wide while Younes Belhanda dragged an attempt wide of the far post as Nice pushed for a leveller.
Nice were defending an unbeaten record at home in the league this season and they drew level midway through the second half when substitute Le Bihan fired home from just outside the box after good work from Valentin Eysseric.
Souquet then set up Le Bihan to net the winner and put the seal on a fairytale comeback, and Nice held on with Ryad Boudebouz hitting the post from a stoppage-time free-kick for Montpellier.
Monaco can go clear at the top again as they look to bounce back from their 5-3 defeat at Manchester City in the Champions League in midweek when they go to Guingamp on Saturday afternoon.
PSG visit great rivals Marseille, who are sixth, in the ‘Classique’ on Sunday night.