Kalou scores first hat-trick as Lille seal comeback win at Ajaccio
Salomon Kalou scored his first hat-trick in Ligue 1 as Lille came from behind to beat Ajaccio 3-2 in a bad-tempered affair at the Stade Francois-Coty.
Despite falling behind to Junior Tallo’s strike, the quickest goal this season in the French top-flight, Kalou’s effort from open play was sandwiched by two penalties to secure a first win on the road since October.
Remi Garde’s team held on despite seeing Adama Soumaoro sent off late on.
Tallo had offered the Corsicans hope just before the break when he scored his second of the game to send the teams in level but a contentious second-half spot-kick proved enough to eventually separate the two sides as Ajaccio boss Christian Baroni was sent to the stands for protests.
The hosts wasted no time in exposing Lille’s vulnerability on the road when Sigamary Diarra’s teasing cross was met by Tallo inside the area and he dispatched a clinical first-time volley beyond Vincent Enyeama after just 40 seconds.
Cedric Hengbart almost doubled the Corsicans’ lead on the quarter hour but he headed wide from Johan Cavalli’s cross and that miss proved costly just a few minutes later when Kalou levelled for the visitors.
Cavalli took a tumble inside his own area before handling and the former Chelsea man made no mistake from the penalty spot for his seventh goal of the season.
Ajaccio’s wastefulness in front of goal continued and Benjamin Andre was guilty of one of the misses of the season when he somehow fired wide of an open goal and, as half-time approached, Lille took the lead for the first time in the match.
Kalou began the move before Florent Balmont found Jonathan Deleplace whose cross was neatly tucked away at the back post by Lille’s Ivorian striker for his second of the game.
However, that lead lasted a matter of moments, in what was becoming a personal battle between two fellow internationals, when Andre benefited from some lapse Lille defending to nod into the path of Tallo who cleverly lifted the ball over Enyeama for his fourth of the season.
Remi Garde’s men continued to create chances in the second half and Kalou thought he had claimed his hat-trick with 65 minutes played but the linesman’s flag went up but he did not have to wait much longer for that elusive third.
With less than 20 minutes to play the visitors were awarded a dubious second penalty when Grenddy Perozo pulled back Roux before Kalou fired beyond Ochoa from 12 yards to claim his third of the game.
Lille were reduced to ten men late on when Soumaoro’s nasty-looking two-footed challenge left Dennis Oliech in a heap but Les Dogues held on to leapfrog St Etienne into third place.