A tidy game this was, satisfyingly tidy considering the irregular start against Pau last week and SO Cholet’s drubbing of US Créteil-Lusitanos, a drubbing that put them at the top of the table, both in points, differential, and psychic capital. Regis Brouard tinkered with the starting 11 and tossed in enough quirks to be noteworthy – the ever nameless Matias Ferreria earned another start at right back, an anonymous 34 plunging forward on the flank, and new signing Omenuke Mfulu slid in next to Lefebvre in the midfield (in place of Lud Sylvestre, who I swear I read was battling a stomach flu, but who was also subbed on in the second half with no apparent jokes to be made). Let me say now and tempt any cosmic karmic energy that I could not be more thrilled to have a player with OMEN in his name donning the number 13 kit – after losing both Pierrick Croses and with Dada off in soccer purgatory, this roster needed an injection of nomenclature weirdness.
Perhaps it’s the recency bias, or even a bit of novelty, but I couldn’t help but notice Mfulu to a much higher degree than his teammates (a mostly quiet night from Lefebvre and Teuma only bolstered the illusion), and certainly in the positive – his ability to bomb forward quickly and effortlessly and to overlap in the attacking third with Abdoulaye Sané and Sekou Keita lends itself to a much more dynamic midfield than the solidly defensive (but good!) duo of Lefebvre and Sylvestre. In fact, he seems a perfect complement to allow Lefebvre to do what he does best, namely close on opponents with one or two flourescent strides and win the ball back all over the midfield.
And it played well, even after only eight minutes of game time, itself after only a handful of days of being on the team. Ferreria, flying around in boots that can only be described as “Pepto Bismol,” collapsed on a SO Cholet attacker, rockets a line drive pass up the right flank to Mfulu, who in turn puts it off a defender for a corner. Teddy Teuma’s corner, taking a cue from high school science textbooks, was both accurate and precise, and right to Formose Mendy’s forehead and into goal. 1-0 heroes. Mendy has been around for a while (at least, compared to much of the roster) without doing a whole lot of being noticed, so I’m going to assume that it’s his Nelly-style face bandage finally pushing him to a higher level.
I mentioned it last week, but watching an inspired Red Star team play with creativity and energy is intoxicating, and the Mfulu/Keita/Sané triplet appears (AGAIN after the bare minimum of time playing together) to be as dynamic as any triplet on the roster – lots of speed, lots of physicality, enough skill to put National defenders back on their broken heels. As long as Fererria and Lefebvre can consistently win the ball and make overlapping runs on the right side, they can really be dangerous (and so far, they seem to be up to the challenge. Lefebvre defends like a bat devouring mosquitos). The fact that they’re all young only makes the bashful, involuntary grinning that much sweeter.
And speaking of skill and energy and single-handedly keeping the Championnat National Defenders Ankle Insurance Program afloat, let’s talk about Idriss Mhirsi. I (and much of the fanbase) expected him to come into the season with a bashful, involuntary pout after not jumping ship for a Ligue 2 team this summer. I’m still not convinced if he’s the next coming of Näim Sliti we’ve been trying to pretend he is, but it’s obvious his talent puts him in a different stratosphere than most of the 3rd tier defenders that have to…defend him. It’s been a treat, then, to see him not pouting away on the bench and contributing his share of rococo dribbles and swooping flip passes. His pinball-bouncing assist to Keita basically sealed the result before some tired legs contributed to a late Cholet goal. Fans fainted while I’m entertaining/Wild, ain’t it?
Three points on the road is always more than acceptable, and Brouard et. al keep adding experience to a team that is coalescing around a bunch of hyperactive early 20-somethings rising to meet a promotion push. Things are good! Things feel good. Momentum is at our back, and a full week of rest before Saturday’s match against Marseille Consolat should help bring the Bauer its first league victory since 2015.