PARIS: Nice beat second-placed Lyon 3-0 as Ligue 1 resumed on Friday (Saturday in Manila) as scheduled, a week on from the Paris terror attacks that left 130 people dead and more than 350 injured.
Valere Germain and Vincent Koziello struck either side of a Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa own goal on an emotional evening at the Allianz Riviera as tributes were paid to the victims of last week’s attacks in the French capital.
“I told my players they had the chance to give happiness to those who were watching us. Everyone was up to the mark tonight, the Nice fans and the two teams,” said Nice coach Claude Puel.
Lyon counterpart Hubert Fournier had no qualms about the defeat, adding it was “deserved” while also praising the “dignified and respectful” behavior of the Nice supporters.
A moving rendition of the French national anthem, ‘La Marseillaise’, was played before kick-off and was followed by a minute’s silence, during which fans held aloft candles.
A Nice supporters group had urged fans to come dressed in black to honor victims of last Friday’s attacks, while players wore black armbands as a traditional mark of respect.
Sports Minister Thierry Braillard, along with French football officials, had taken the decision on Tuesday to allow Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches to go ahead under heavy security, but without away fans.
League president Frederic Thiriez said security forces across the country were too stretched to allow fans to travel.
Mathieu Valbuena was named in the Lyon team just hours after giving evidence in the sex tape blackmail affair in which his France colleague Karim Benzema has been charged.
Valbuena, who was seen leaving a Versailles court, on the outskirts on Paris, at around 12:45pm local time (1145 GMT) then travelled to the Cote d’Azur, almost 1,000 kilometres away, on a private jet laid on by the club.
Lyon should have taken an early lead when Claudio Beauvue was left unmarked 10 yards out, only for the striker to blaze over the crossbar.
The visitors, unbeaten on their last five trips to Nice, went even closer on the quarter hour as last year’s leading scorer Alexandre Lacazette fired against the base of the post.
Having initially rode their luck early Nice made the breakthrough 20 minutes in as Valere Germain gathered Jean-Michael Seri’s pass and glided into the box before lifting a superb dinked finish over Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes for his sixth goal of the season.
The hosts stretched their lead three minutes after half-time when Lyon defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa inexplicably diverted Jeremy Pied’s low cross into his own net.
Twenty-year-old Vincent Koziello rounded off the victory on 71 minutes with a thumping finish into the roof of the net as Nice climbed to third in the table, just a point behind Lyon.
Reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain travel to Lorient on Saturday with a chance to further increase their healthy 10-point cushion at the top.