Nantes win again under coach Conceicao to move up to 11th

PARIS: Nantes is playing with the energy and tenacity its manager Sergio Conceicao used to show a player, and Wednesday's 1-0 home win against Caen was the sixth in seventh games since the former Portugal winger took charge.

Argentine striker Emiliano Sala scored for Nantes midway through the second half — the second straight match he has grabbed the winner after netting in a 1-0 victory away to Toulouse last weekend.

When Conceicao replaced Rene Girard as manager, Nantes was mired in the relegation zone and fans of the storied club — which won the last of its eight French titles in 2001 — were turning angrily on the players, even turning up to training sessions to vent their frustrations.

Fast forward five weeks and Nantes is now in 11th place in the league and has lost only once under Conceicao — in the League Cup quarter-finals.

"Given the situation we were in, it was tough. We had to start from scratch," Nantes midfielder Guillaume Gillet said on television after the match. "We worked really hard tactically and to find our opponents' weaknesses — and it's working pretty well."

Now, the players are looking forward to facing defending French champion Paris Saint-Germain in the league on Saturday, rather than dreading it.

"Luckily for us we have switched the button on in our heads and it's tough to beat Nantes now," said Gillet, who has played 22 times for Belgium. "So why not try and beat the biggest team in the league?"

The 42-year-old Conceicao, who played for FC Porto, Lazio, Parma and Inter Milan, made 56 appearances for Portugal from 1996-2003 — scoring a hat trick against Germany at the 2000 European Championship.

He has coached four Portuguese clubs since 2012, and was in charge of Vitoria Guimaraes last season.