Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
WHAT a memorable night it was for Zimbabwean international football players Tino Kadewere and Marshall Munetsi in the French Ligue 1 before the Christmas break!
Kadewere, who has undoubtedly taken the French top-flight football by storm, on Wednesday night scored his seventh goal of the season when Olympique Lyon destroyed Nantes 3-0 to climb to the top of the table ahead of the winter break.
Midfielder Munetsi also had a night to remember on the same day after breaking his duck in the French Ligue 1 by scoring the third goal for Stade de Reims in the 3-1 win over Girondins de Bordeaux.
Warriors forward Kadewere has lifted the country’s flag high with a fine debut campaign in the French top-flight.
Kadewere, who was snapped up from the second tier side Le Havre after topping the Ligue 2 charts with 20 goals from 24 starts, has fitted seamlessly into the Lyon giants.
He has struck it rich in one of Europe’s most prolific attacking trio at the moment which includes Cameroonian Carl Toko-Ekambi and their Dutch skipper Memphis Depay, who is a target of European giants Barcelona and Juventus.
Kadewere scored Lyon’s second goal on Wednesday night from a tight angle from a 37th minute rebound from Lucas Paqueta’s shot. The goal doubled Lyon’s lead after Toko-Ekambi had put them ahead with his ninth goal of the season.
The Zimbabwean continued his fine form when he turned the provider for the third goal after teeing up the Brazilian international star, Paqueta, before the half-time whistle.
With a tally of seven goals to his name and three assists in 16 league games, Kadewere has become somewhat of a big signing for the club. Lyon parted with US$16.5 million in January this year for the Zimbabwean’s signature.
Kadewere had arrived on the French shores unknown the previous season for a paltry US$2.5 million from Swedish side Djurgårdens IF.
“Kadewere has been directly involved in ten Ligue 1 goals (seven goals, three assists) in 16 games. What a Signing,” thundered the Lyon media after the Nantes game.
The Kadewere, Toko-Ekambo and Depay trio, which has come to be known in short as KTM, has contributed 24 of Lyon’s 34 goals this season.
“We have an understanding on the pitch when we play together,” said Kadewere in an interview with the Lyon media.
“We have played a lot of good matches but it’s only the start of the season and we need to keep working hard in order to finish the league campaign with lots of points to get back into the Champions League.
“I had a very good season last year with Le Havre and when I got here I realised I had good team-mates who work all the time with me, and who talk to me a lot.
“That explains why I’ve been able to adapt so quickly. When you play with players like my team-mates then it’s magnificent.
“We have a lot of very strong players, everyone wants to play and we have a very good team. It’s good for me, it’s all going well and I will try to carry on like this and keep working for the team and for myself.”
Lyon are now unbeaten in 14 games and have won nine of their last 11 matches. They will spend the short winter break on top of the French Ligue 1 table on goal difference after the victory over Nantes.
Rudi Garcia’s side started the day in second place by a difference of one goal from Lille on Wednesday night. They turned the tables with a comfortable win while Lille edged Montpellier 3-2.
Lyon will still enjoy the festive holidays on top despite the wins by closest rivals Lille and Paris Saint-Germain as the top three remain separated by just one point.
Another Zimbabwean, Munetsi, breathed a huge sigh of relief ahead of the festive break.
Munetsi scored a fine curling effort, struck from outside the box, to help his team secure a 3-1 victory over Bordeaux.
Munetsi was introduced in the game in the second half and scored Stade de Reims third goal with just a minute of regulation time via a deflection off Bordeaux player Maxime Poundjé. This was his first goal since joining the Ligue 1 side.
“A great team performance for our victory today and l’m so happy to score my first goal for the Stade De Reims in Ligue 1. God is Great,” said Munetsi.
Reims have given themselves a breathing space in the fight for survival after collecting seven points from their last three outings. They have now risen into 15th place ahead of the winter break.