PARIS – Nimes showed a rattled Marseille it belongs back in the French top flight with a high-octane 3-1 win on Sunday.
The last time the teams met in the first division was 25 years ago – and in the year Marseille won the Champions League.
Nicknamed “The Crocodiles,” Nimes was toothless in 1993 when it lost 6-1 against Europe’s best team.
It was a totally different story this time as the southern sides – separated by about 120 kilometers (75 miles) – met on a sweltering hot night.
Nimes struck in the 34th minute when striker Denis Bouanga showed pace and skill to cut in from the left, skipping past Japan defender Hiroki Sakai and drilling a low shot past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
But Marseille has one of the best scorers around in winger Florian Thauvin.
Last season, he grabbed 22 league goals to earn a place on France’s World Cup-winning squad.
So far, he’s netted twice despite playing just 65 minutes.
Last weekend, Thauvin played eight minutes as a substitute and embellished Marseille’s 4-0 home win against Toulouse with a skillful late finish.
He equalized against Nimes in the 49th, polishing off a quick counterattack with an exquisite lob.
Still not fully fit after resting since the World Cup, he came off after 57 minutes.
Five minutes later, Marseille was caught on a counterattack and striker Sada Thioub gleefully clipped the ball over Mandanda.
Striker Renaud Ripart, who had never played in Ligue 1 before this season, then showed great strength to shrug off two defenders and slide the ball home in the 87th.
Nimes fans may pinch themselves because – 25 years later – the modest club is level on six points with big-spending French champion Paris Saint-Germain.
NO POYET, NO POINTS
Two days after coach Gus Poyet was suspended for accusing his club of selling a player without telling him, Bordeaux lost its second straight league game.
Bordeaux was beaten 2-1 at Toulouse, with midfielder Matthieu Dossevi firing home the winner.
Striker Aaron Leya Iseka put Toulouse ahead on the stroke of halftime with a brilliant 30-meter shot, before Guinea forward Francois Kamano’s well-taken 50th-minute goal gave Bordeaux hope.
Also, Senegalese striker Makhtar Gueye’s debut goal earned 10-man Saint-Etienne a 1-1 draw at Strasbourg.
Only months ago, he was playing in the Senegalese second division with Union sportive de Goree.
“I don’t have words,” Gueye said afterward.
Gueye netted in the 88th, four minutes after coming on, with Saint-Etienne trailing to a 55th-minute curler from midfielder Anthony Goncalves.
Saint-Etienne had center half Neven Subotic sent off after 18 minutes.
Strasbourg and Saint-Etienne have four points, while Toulouse and Marseille have three.
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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire