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Lausanne down but not out

Nantes players celebrate their late goal against Lausanne

(Keystone)

A moment of lunacy and a flash of French brilliance saw Lausanne end up on the losing side of a thrilling UEFA Cup first leg encounter against Nantes on Thursday.

After taking a 3-2 lead midway through the second half, Pierre-André Schürmann's side gave away an own goal off the head of Daniel Puce, before conceding a spectacular late winner from Nantes defender Nicolas Gillet.

The eventual 4-3 scoreline in the French club's favour leaves the tie well within Lausanne's reach, with a home leg still to play in two weeks' time. But there is bound to be some disappointment among the canton Vaud side who had seemed to be just minutes from an important win.

The first half had seen Lausanne come under pressure almost from the kick-off. With less than two minutes played Nantes striker Olivier Monterrubio hit the ball past Lausanne keeper Eric Rapo only to see his effort rebound off the post.

The home side took a deserved lead a quarter of an hour later, with former Swiss league star Viorel Moldovan profiting from some confusion in the Lausanne area.

After two saves in quick succession from Rapo, Nantes midfielder Salomon Olembe fed a clever pass through to the ex-Grasshoppers and Neuchatel hero who flicked the ball into the net with his first touch.

As the first half wore on, though, Lausanne grew in confidence and found themselves back on level terms five minutes before the break. Polish striker Marcin Kuzba scored the equaliser from the penalty spot, after Javier Mazzoni was brought down by Nantes defender Sylvain Armand.

Lausanne's celebrations were barely finished before Nantes edged themselves in front once more. A clever chip from Eric Carrière bypassed the Swiss side's defences, allowing Monterrubio to finish from close range.

If the first half had finished with a nightmare, the second began like a dream for Lausanne. A left-wing cross from the club's French midfielder David Hellebuyck found Mazzoni unmarked and unstoppable just minutes after the restart.

Then with 20 minutes remaining, Pierre-André Schürmann's team took the lead for the first time, Kuzba shaking off Armand before calmly firing past Nantes goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau.

Again the revelries were short-lived. Three minutes after Kuzba's goal, Lausanne had blown their lead.

An optimistic long ball from the Nantes midfield found its way into Rapo's goal following a breakdown in communication in the Lausanne defence. Unaware that the keeper had left his line, Puce headed the ball backwards into an empty net.

With just six minutes remaining Lausanne were denied even the prospect of an honourable draw. A well worked Nantes corner was headed on to defender Nicolas Gillet who produced an overhead strike worthy of an international striker.

It was a dramatic but cruel end to the night for Lausanne. But after conceding three goals at home and coming away with the slimmest of leads, Nantes are unlikely to enter next month's return match without some trepidation.

by Mark Ledsom


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