Lille players celebrate after scoring during the French League One soccer match between Lille and Nantes at the Lille Metropole stadium, in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Lille off to best French league start in more than 60 years

September 22, 2018 - 11:27 am

PARIS (AP) — After struggling last season, Lille is transformed.

The northern side earned a fourth win in six matches to move to second place in the French league, within two points of Paris Saint-Germain, after a 2-1 result against Nantes on Saturday.

Lille has won its three home games this season and is off to its best start in the league since 1952.

Lille fought off relegation last season. It's recruiting in the offseason has paid dividends so far, as Jose Fonte and Jonathan Ikone, who were both hired in the summer, made the scoresheet at Pierre Mauroy Stadium.

Fonte helped Portugal win the 2016 European Championship and started all four of their games at the World Cup. His much-needed injection of experience helped him score his first league goal and set up Ikone's against Nantes.

After a hat trick at Amiens, Lille striker Nicolas Pepe had the first chance with a shot tipped over by Ciprian Tatarusanu in the seventh minute, but the Nantes 'keeper was powerless when

Fonte headed home a corner at the far post early on, and in the second half Ikone connected with Fonte's header 25 meters from goal and fired a left-foot shot into the top corner.

"I noticed nobody came out to press and I took my chance," said Ikone, who joined Lille from Montpellier. "It's the best goal (of my career). I have not scored so many goals, and this one is a beauty."

Substitute Kalifa Coulibaly pulled one back late for Nantes, which has won only one game and stands just one point above the relegation zone.

PSG plays on Sunday at Rennes.


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