William Saliba put in a Man of the Match performance against Stade de Reims in a draw for Saint-Etienne over the weekend.
After a hellish week following another defeat against Stade Brestois, as well as some complicated events with Stephane Ruffier after Claude Puel made the decision to challenge his number one position, Saint-Etienne was facing Stade de Reims at home.
The game wouldn’t be easy either, as Reims have one of the best defences in the league and Saint-Etienne were missing Wesley Fofana through suspension. Add to that Loïc Perrin’s injury, it hasn’t been a peaceful week.
Claude Puel once again changed his defence to a back four with Debuchy and Kolodziejczak on the sides whilst Saliba and M’Vila were partnered together.
The game started slowly, as Saint-Etienne needed to find some calm. Nothing much happened for either side. However, Saliba managed to rediscover some self-confidence. Slowly but surely, the young centre-back came back to his usual self rather than the pale version we saw the weekend before.
We finally saw again the focused and composed Saliba we had missed, and it was needed. Other than a missed pass (in the 28th minute) which could’ve been dangerous, his first-half was clean and well handled. He did well to manage Dia and it felt like M’Vila helped him being more serene.
The first 45 minutes finished without a goal, yet, it was a good thing for Saint-Etienne as it felt like they had not accomplished that in a very long time.
King Wilo ! 👑 pic.twitter.com/BZaOS8wLuW
— AS Saint-Étienne (@ASSEofficiel) February 24, 2020
William Saliba’ good performance was confirmed during the second half. He kept on working well to block Reims’ timid attacks. As the game went on, Saint-Etienne got a bit more confident. Meanwhile, Saliba kept on showing off.
Saint-Etienne ended up scoring at the 73rd minute thanks to Bouanga, the club’s top scorer this season (nine goals). They defended well as Reims started putting more and more pressure on, before a late play changed everything.
After Bouanga crossed the ball into Reims’ box, the opposition recovered the ball, quickly counter-attacked. Dia managed to find his way into the box to face M’Vila who accidentally touched his feet and fouled him. That foul tarnished his game which was good until then. Saliba couldn’t do anything in that situation. A clear penalty was given and scored at the very last minute by Dia.
The game ended in a draw. It felt cruel for that Saint-Etienne team which finally showed a better face, the face of a team which wants to fight for its survival.
As for Saliba, we finally saw the defender we know. Once again, he was shining among his teammates with his natural drive and composure. He offered a good performance, a performance which was needed in such tough times.
It was particularly important to go back to the basics with the derby against Olympique Lyonnais coming up next Sunday, then the semifinal of the Coupe de France on Thursday. Anyway, Saliba’s performance was appreciated and rewarded by the fans as he was voted Man of The Match.
As for his statistics, Saliba won two of his four duels, touched the ball 53 times and lost it three times, made 37 passes with a completion rate of 92%. He also made one tackle and four interceptions.