PLAYER RATINGS | Nice 3-1 Sheriff Tiraspol: France’s last-man-standing reach Conference League quarter-finals

UEFA Europa Conference League, Round of 16, 16/03/23

OGC Nice qualified for the quarter-final of a European competition for the first time since 1960, beating Sheriff Tiraspol 3-1, (Agg. 4-1) in the UEFA Europa Conference League to progress. 

Nice, officially managed by Julien Sablé rather than Didier Digard on the night due to an obscure UEFA rule, made the break in the first-half thanks to a composed Gaëtan Laborde finish. 

Sheriff TIraspol’s defence was well set in the opening exchanges. The Moldovan side’s gameplan was clear: remain compact, contain and try to hit on the break. However, they lacked any kind of ambition or invention in the first-half, and were punished. 

Nice were allowed too much time on the ball and dictated the tempo of the play. Whilst that didn’t allow Les Aiglons to procure any clear-cut chance in the opening half-hour, giving talented players such as Aaron Ramsey and Khéphren Thuram time on the ball seemed like a risky bet, and so it proved. 

Some quick thinking from Kasper Schemeichel, who collected the ball from a rare Sheriff foray into the Nice half, distributed quickly to Laborde, who found Thuram with a simple vertical pass. Space is one thing you can’t afford such a prolific progressor of the ball, and Thuram drove forward, finding the pinpoint pass to put Laborde through, who finished with a composed finish. 

Sheriff had tried to shut the door on Nice, but Le Gym had the key to unlock them, and they did so with increasing frequency and ease as the half progressed. Terem Moffi, and notably Pablo Rosario would have decent chances to put the game beyond their opponents before half-time. 

Nice did look to have put the game beyond Sheriff early in the second-half. Rosario played the ball into Moffi, who had a lot to do, but danced around the defence before slotting past Maxym Koval. The Nigerain looked to have made the fatal blow, shot the Sheriff as it were, but the Moldovan side broke back immediately. 

Jean-Clair Todibo, who unlike teammate Thuram, missed out on a France call-up earlier in the day, made a poor headed clearance, which was capitalised on by Abdoul Tapsoba, who picked up the pieces to slot between Schmeichel’s legs. 

Nice’s rhythm was then perturbed by a quadruple substitution, which allowed Sheriff to find more space, more regularly. Les Aiglons could have been punished had their opponents showed more composure and better decision-making in the final-third. 

However, as Sheriff finally began to commit, perhaps a little to late in the encounter, spaces opened up at the back, and Billal Brahimi profited from them. The Algerian international broke through two challenges inside his own half, fed Moffi, who hit the post. The rebound fell fortuoutously for Brahimi, who tucked home into the open net from a couple of yards out. 

Nice player ratings

Kasper Schmeichel – 6 – Can’t really be blamed for Sheriff’s goal, and it was his quick thinking and sublime execution that unblocked the match by creating the first goal. 

Jordan Lotomba – 5

Youssouf Ndayishimiye – 5

Jean-Clair Todibo – 4 – Not his usual self on the night. You have to ask whether the disappointment of missing out on the France squad potentially played a role in a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes, notably for Sheriff’s goal. 

Melvin Bard – 5

Pablo Rosario – 5

Khéphren Thuram – 8 – Buoyed by his France call-up earlier in the day, Thuram was imperious and essential for Nice. He controlled the game, dropping deeper at times and showing some a good range of distribution. He used his frame brilliantly to maintain possession of the ball and drive into spaces on a couple of occasions, and notably provided the key, pinpoint pass to allow Laborde to open the scoring. 

Aaron Ramsey – 6

Billal Brahimi – 7 – The Algerian international can sometimes be accused of keeping hold of the ball for too long, but his ball carries were excellent on the night, and at times provided some much-needed relief when Nice were under the cosh. Les Aiglons’ brilliant third goal was all about him. He has certainly looked much more decisive since Digard’s arrival. 

Terem Moffi – 7 – Looked confident. He went close with an audacious chip from outside the box in the first-half, and danced through the defence early in the second-half to double Nice’s lead on the night. 

Gaëtan Laborde – 7 – A calm composed finish from the former Rennes forward, who fed off scraps, but was decisive when it mattered. Replaced by the returning Nicolas Pépé just after the hour mark 

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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