Saint-Etienne started life under new manager Oscar Garcia with a superb 1-0 victory over last season’s surprise package, Nice.
The visitors might have been without star players Mario Balotelli and the lauded Jean-Michaël Seri, but this entirely competent and talented group were no match for Les Verts on the day.
In front of a smaller crowd, the hosts were able to get the fans at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard going with their pressing game in the embryonic stages of proceedings.
The forwards put an unusually nervy Nice under pressure as Lucien Farve’s men attempted to play out from the back - thus creating numerous opportunities and restricting the opponent’s territorial stranglehold on the fixture.
Such a gung-ho approach was rarely seen during Christophe Galtier’s seven-year reign and Garcia was rewarded for such optimism with a goal in the opening four minutes of their first Ligue 1 outing of the campaign.
Forwards look to have benefited from Garcia
Jonathan Bamba continued his outstanding pre-season form when he ended a brilliant passing move with a goal. Plenty of those used last season were involved in the swift attack that climaxed after 11 passes, but in a different, more refreshing manner.
The faith bestowed upon Bamba, who was picked ahead of record signing Lois Diony and Robert Beric, is another promising sign of what is to come under the stewardship of Garcia.
“Jonathan Bamba is a very good player. He does what the coach asks and I am very pleased with him.” Said the 44-year-old.
Cast on loan to Angers last term by Galtier, the 21-year-old - who is in the final year of his current contract - started the summer revitalised playing for a manager that evidently trusts him. If this continues then we might see a different story than that of the promising Allan Saint-Maximin, who Saint-Etienne were not able to keep hold of.
This confidence could very much extend to the likes of the occasionally frustrating Oussama Tannane and Kevin Monnet-Paquet, who is yet to score five goals in a single season for Sainte. After being raised on football at Barcelona, Garcia’s desire for beautiful football should help those forwards who have struggled in recent times.
New signings show promise
Fans were also given the opportunity to view three of the club’s new recruits - Saidy Janko, Assane Diousse and Lois Diony.
Those in charge of the club, who were in attendance on Saturday evening, would have been entirely happy with their new acquisitions as all three impressed in the famous green jersey.
Assane Diousse was one of the highlights of the entire night as he put in a Man of the Match performance from midfield. Diousse displayed his fantastic technical ability and willingness to burst forward from central midfield when necessary.
The former Empoli man was given the joint-highest rating in the morning papers alongside Bamba and just ahead of Selnæs, who also looked sharp on the opening day. Such a performance was needed from the new recruit with Les Verts having missed out on Jordan Veretout, which was exacerbated by injuries sustained by a host of midfielders.
Janko, a former Manchester United and Celtic full-back, put in a decent performance at right-back as the youngster looks to put his injury-ridden days in the UK behind him in France.
Saint-Etienne spent over £8m on Diony this summer and he too looked good during his short time on the pitch. The striker, who scored 11 and provided eight assists for Dijon last season, caused Nice's centre-backs issues during the latter stages of the game.
The club are now working on securing the signatures of Alexandros Katranis, Charalampos Lykogiannis and Hernani of Zenit to bolster their squad ahead of meetings with Caen and Amiens.
Overall, Saint-Etienne can be extremely happy after their opening day victory and will look to use this to bounce back from a heavily disappointing 2016/17 season. It was hardly a vintage performance but the strides taken in the first game are extremely promising.
This was another 1-0 win for Saint-Etienne, but a 1-0 win of different proportions.