Girondins de Bordeaux 1-0 Maccabi Haifa: Michael Ciani Wins It Late For Les Girondins
Girondins de Bordeaux were far from convincing, but they did just enough to see off the challenge of Maccabi Haifa, whose thoroughly tenacious approach caused the French champions all kinds of problems in their Champions League fixture.
After over 80 frustrating minutes, an uncharacteristically sloppy Bordeaux found a late winner through centre-back Michael Ciani, whose thumping header finally broke the Israeli outfit’s stubborn resistance.
This was Laurent Blanc’s 104th game in charge of Bordeaux, and in the previous 103, he probably didn’t oversee a 45 minute spell as lacklustre as his men produced in the first half. Regularly reliable servants such as Alou Diarra and Yoann Gourcuff were wasteful in possession and the home side spent much of the first half impotently battering against a packed, keen visiting defence.
Les Girondins passed the ball comfortably until they reached the final third, when the green tide would take over proceedings and comfortably mop up anything the Frenchmen could throw at them. Too ponderous in their build-up, Bordeaux were reduced by Maccabi to one notable first period chance.
A cross-field pass from Marc Planus to Mathieu Chalme – a tactic much under-used by les Girondins – allowed the right-back to break into space. Having marched on a couple of paces, his cross picked out Gourcuff’s late break into the box, but the French international’s header drifted lamely wide of goal.
Maccabi, who were largely content to counterattack, looked the more likely side to register. When they broke, they did so with purpose – full-backs Eyal Meshumar and Tsepo Masilela looking dangerous – though their passing was also somewhat erratic at times. Still, they at least forced home custodian Cedric Carrasso into action a couple of times.
The former Toulouse goalkeeper watched a second minute hook from Vladimer Dvalishvili narrowly clear his crossbar, but he had to be alert to punch away a swerving drive from adventurous right-back Meshumar after a quarter of an hour.
Ciani had to be across sharply to prod the ball away the ball from the toe of Mohammad Ghadir as Maccabi knocked on the counter, but even the quick centre-back could not stop a charge from Masilela down the left. The South African smacked a shot that forced Carrasso to palm the ball away, though it was probably travelling wide.
The first half was succinctly summed up by Bordeaux’s late effort just before the interval. Chalme again found room on the right, electing to cut the ball back to Fernando Cavenaghi, who spooned the ball miles over the top.
Gourcuff was withdrawn at half-time, presumably as a result of a thigh problem that has been plaguing him for several days, and Fernando trotted onto the park as Bordeaux attempted to get more width from the midfield players. But this made little immediate impact as the pattern of the game stayed largely the same.
Indeed, it was the Israeli side who nearly opened the scoring. A poor piece of judgement from Carrasso seemed to have allowed Dvalishvili a simple finish but Ciani got back brilliantly to cover.
To some extent things would improve for Bordeaux – Maccabi no longer looked a meaningful danger on the counter – but the hosts were utterly impotent in the final third. On a couple of occasions, Fernando would have room to shoot, but both times the Brazilian hopelessly missed the target.
It would take 70 minutes for Bordeaux to create an opening, and when one came a second quickly followed. A free kick to the back post was brilliantly knocked across the goal by unusually quiet Chamakh, but Nir Davidovitch’s fingertips did just enough to put off substitute David Bellion, who was also hampered by the presence of team-mate Wendel. Only moments later the former Manchester United man would be played through, but under pressure he could only shoot at the goalkeeper.
Neat play from Eyal Golasa on the edge of the box created a little room with time running out, but his shot was blocked by Carrasso, who failed to hold the effort. Ciani was quickly in to ensure there would be no repercussions from the fumble.
Only three minutes later substitute Lior Refaelov threatened to escape Ciani, but though he couldn’t shake the powerful centre-back, he still forced a fine save from the custodian – his best of the match.
For the first time there was some verve and pace in the encounter, with Wendel’s powerful drive turned over the top from Davidovitch. Sertic’s corner was a good one, fizzing inward towards the visiting goal, and Ciani, a colossus at the back for Bordeaux and certainly their best player on the night, attacked the ball impressively, executing a powerful downward header to provide an unlikely break of the deadlock.
Three minutes from time, Baram Kayal was dismissed for a high, late challenge on Tremoulinas. His red card effectively killed the game off, with the Frenchmen seeing off the three minutes of stoppage time with relative ease.
In many ways, this was a typically gritty performance from Blanc’s men, who have a habit of being able to play below their best yet somehow win. Against truly obstinate opponents, the Frenchmen were far from their optimal level but managed to get the job done. The three points have moved Bordeaux level on points with Bayern Munich at the top of Group A, but les Girondins face the Germans in a vital double-header next.