PARIS: Nice started the new Ligue 1 season with a 1-0 victory over Rennes on Sunday as emotional tributes were paid to the 85 people killed in last month’s terror attack, while Alexandre Lacazette’s hat-trick powered Lyon past Nancy.
Teenage debutant Malang Sarr’s second-half header ensured a winning start for new Nice coach Lucien Favre, but the atmosphere was sombre at the Allianz Riviera just a month after the southern French city was rocked by the July 14th attack.
Both teams wore a commemorative kit with the names of the victims printed on the front in the shape of a heart, while 85 balloons were released in the centre circle before a minute’s silence was observed prior to kick-off.
Sarr, 17, secured the victory for the hosts as he nodded in Jean Michael Seri’s free-kick in the 60th minute, although Rennes nearly snatched a point in stoppage time when Adama Diakhaby rattled the crossbar from a corner.
The kits worn by the players were set to be auctioned off after the match with the proceeds going to the victims’ families.
“We were eager to win, especially on this particular day for all the people of Nice. We really wanted to make the tribute even more beautiful,” said Nice captain Paul Baysse.
Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette scored a hat-trick as last year’s runners-up won 3-0 away to promoted Nancy.
Lacazette, who has been linked with a move to the Premier League as well as Paris Saint-Germain this summer, fired Lyon ahead on 33 minutes at the Stade Marcel Picot before adding a second just before half-time.
The 25-year-old then completed his treble in stoppage time as Lyon made a promising start in their quest to end PSG’s four-year reign at the top in France.
“I hoped to at least score and help my team-mates because I knew we had a difficult match on our hands,” said Lacazette.
“It’s good for confidence going forward. The first goal freed us up and then we were able to get going.”
Nancy overrun on return
Bruno Genesio stuck with the same team thrashed 4-1 by PSG in last weekend’s Champions Trophy, with Lyon faring considerably better against a Nancy side playing their first top-flight game since 2012-13.
After a difficult start to the previous campaign, in which he scored just once in the first eight matches, Lacazette was up and running on the half hour as he drilled in the rebound after Sergi Darder was foiled by Nancy goalkeeper Guy Ndy Assembe.
Lacazette then struck again on 44 minutes after Vincent Muratori misjudged Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes’ long clearance, leaving the OL striker clean through to apply another clinical finish.
Substitute Jordan Ferri set up Lacazette for his third late on, the latter slotting home from close range to cap an impressive start to the season.
Marseille stumbled to a 0-0 draw at home to Toulouse as their woes at the Stade Velodrome, where they won just three times all of last season, resurfaced in Sunday’s late game.
Remy Cabella struck the outside of the post in the first half, while on-loan striker Bafetimbi Gomis — brought in to help fill the void left by the sale of Michy Batshuayi to Chelsea forced a sharp save out of Toulouse keeper Alban Lafont.
On Friday champions PSG began their quest for a fifth consecutive title by winning 1-0 at Bastia, Layvin Kurzawa scoring the only goal in Corsica.
Monaco warmed up for their trip to Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League play-off next midweek by coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Guingamp, Bernardo Silva grabbing the late equaliser.