FC Salzburg took a superb 2-0 win in their fourth UEFA Europa League group stage match at OGC Nice. Both goals were scored by Korea's Hee Chan Hwang (71' and 75').
Salzburg dominated the French league leaders over the full 90 minutes, delighted with their incessant work off the ball and caused all kinds of problems for Nice. The 2-0 win at the Stade de Nice gives Hwang & Co. their first three points in the current UEFA Europa League season, leaving the door open for Salzburg to still potentially finish the group stage in the top two and progress.
FC Salzburg: Walke – Wisdom, Upamecano, Miranda, Ulmer – Rzatkowski (75' Lainer), Laimer, Radosevic, Lazaro – Dabbur (83' Soriano), Gulbrandsen (62' Hwang)
OGC Nice: Cardinale – Souquet, Sarr, Dante, Pereira – Koziello, Seri (77' Walter), Belhanda, Cyprien (79' Donis) – Balotelli, Plea (71' Eysseric)
Laimer (54' foul) and Koziello (64' foul)
situation going into the game
OGC Nice were able to narrowly win the first meeting between the two sides in Salzburg 1-0. The French outfit are still enjoying a tremendous start to their league season, and sit top of the table without defeat after eleven matches.
Lucien Favre's team have found it tougher in the Europa League, only taking their first points in the group stage at FC Salzburg recently. Salzburg went into the match as the only team in Group I left on zero points. FC Salzburg therefore went into their 100th competitive European match wanting to finally make their mark in the competition - with a win!
Not available for action were Christian Schwegler, Smail Prevljak (both knee) and Wanderson (thigh). Xaver Schlager was with the Salzburg U19 side who won 8-1 at home in the UEFA Youth League against Kairat Almaty yesterday, and was therefore not in the squad.
There was a surprise in store with Jonatan Soriano not named in the starting line-up for the big match, although there was a good reason for that, as our captain was carrying a slight injury in the last week. Starting up front in the 4-4-2 system this time were Fredrik Gulbrandsen and Munas Dabbur. Garcia made changes in the defence too, with Andre Wisdom on the right flank, Dayot Upamecano and Paolo Miranda in the centre, and Andi Ulmer on the left.
On the subject of Andi Ulmer: our experienced player made his 33th appearance in the UEFA Europa League (not including qualifying rounds) - to pull level with Christoph Leitgeb as the player to have made the most appearances for FC Salzburg in UEFA competitions.
Despite a strong start, the French team's strong midfield did not look like it was going to be beaten easily. After a few minutes, Munas Dabbur was able to break free into some space and launch a counter attack. As the defence was holding tight in front of him, the Israeli opted to play the ball around patiently, but this approach didn't work on this occasion and Nice were able to go forward.
Dayot v Balotelli
While our youngster acknowledged ahead of the game that he has a great amount of respect for superstar Mario Balotelli, there wasn't too much of this on display in the match itself. The two first had the chance to meet in the seventh minute, when Dayot Upamencano sent the big-name striker crashing to the ground. The referee was in no mood to hand out an early card, thankfully, but awarded the French side a free-kick.
first signs of dominance
In the 12th minute, Valentino Lazaro seized control of the ball on the left wing against Dante and played it into the middle to Fredrik Gulbrandsen, who stumbled on the edge of the penalty area, but was still able to get a shot away. His effort was too tame, however, and Nice goalkeeper Cardinale was able to save it. Munas Dabbur was completely free on the right, however. Nice seemed to be a little anxious after this attack and struggled to get back into the game. Our team were putting in a very good showing so far, with some confident pressing in attack and solid defending.
Keep it up!
Our Red Bulls sought to keep up the intensity with which they went about their work until half-time at least, even though they struggled tactically to make any clear breakthroughs. Not that the leaders of Ligue 1 had too much in the way of scoring opportunities - with their best early effort a speculative Mario Balotelli effort from a good 30 metres out. Thanks to our side's superb defensive showing, the hosts struggled to make an attacking impression.
change of mood
Our team struggled to convert getting the ball in and around the penalty area into scoring chances, and a lot of good moves therefore came to nothing. After Marc Rzatkowski supposedly fouled Mario Balotelli, the French side had a free-kick on the left edge of the penalty area. The player who had been fouled stepped up himself but was not able to get a goal for his theatrics. The atmosphere changed at this stage of the match at the Stade de Nice, with 20,000 Nice fans not best pleased at seeing their team penned back in their own stadium by the Red Bulls. Marc Rzatkowski seized control of the ball in midfield shortly before the end of the first half and teed up Munas Dabbur, who charged towards the area and sent in a testing shot from long-range that Cardinale turned behind for a corner that came to nothing. Oscar Garcia's team went into the break with the match goalless but with plenty of pleasure at a superb showing in which they continually troubled the hosts with quick pressing and good passing moves.
thrilling second half
Lucien Favre clearly found some inspiring words in the half-time interval, as the French side defended with more resoluteness at the start of the second period, without creating all too much going forward. Salzburg were able to keep on with their thrilling attacking play, and became much more of a goal threat. The first chance following the restart fell to Munas Dabbur, after Gulbrandsen teed him up in the 51st minute. Nice continued to try to make some inroads into the game, and threatened for the first time when Souquet played the ball across to Mario Balotelli in the goalmouth. The Italian striker wasn't quick enough to the ball though, and sent it wide. A short while later, Souquet was able to burst into the penalty area before being blocked by Valentino Lazaro just before he could shoot. Souquet was then again left in too much space on the right. His pass into the middle landed right at the feet of our Bulls' defenders, who smashed clear.
Having just been substituted on, Hee Chan Hwang ripped the Nice defence to shreds by striking twice within minutes for his first brace in a European match. The Korean was picked out with a chip from Munas Dabbur in the 72nd minute, and he was able to lose his marker in the area and head into the net. Minutes later the youngster chested down superbly following a great ball from Josip Radosevic, and scored on the turn for a fully deserved 2-0 lead.
Walke finally in action
It took 82 minutes until our goalkeeper Alexander Walke, who captained the team today, was first called into action. Mario Balotelli curled a free-kick perfectly on goal, but Alex Walke was placed to save in style. The Red Bulls therefore took a comprehensive and vital away win in the Europa League group stage. Our lads were enjoying their football from the very first minute to the last, and showed huge amounts of determination and courage. Time to celebrate now, guys!
We were much the better team today and deserved to win. When you get so many scoring chances against the French league leaders and give the opponents so few opportunities at the back, you have to be really proud of your performance. We need to build on that now if we want to turn things around in the group stage.
I am really pleased with the result and the performance of my team. We played well in the first meeting, but today we got rewarded with a win. This win is very important for all of us! I am pleased for the club and for the fans who travelled to Nice today.
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