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Ciani celebrates significant strike

FC Girondins de Bordeaux's Michaël Ciani described his decisive late goal against Maccabi Haifa FC as "a very big moment" as the Ligue 1 champions edged out their Israeli counterparts 1-0 in Group A.

Michaël Ciani salutes the crowd after his late winner
Michaël Ciani salutes the crowd after his late winner ©Getty Images

FC Girondins de Bordeaux defender Michaël Ciani described his decisive late goal against Maccabi Haifa FC as "a very big moment" in his career after the Ligue 1 titleholders edged out their Israeli counterparts in an intense Group A encounter.

Superb interventions
Ciani has made a fine start at Bordeaux after joining from FC Lorient in the summer, yet the giant centre-back did not enjoy the most comfortable of evenings against an ambitious Haifa side. The impressive visitors attacked with pace and purpose throughout, and had it not been for several superb interventions from the 25-year-old stopper – as well as a series of fine saves from Cédric Carrasso – Laurent Blanc's men might easily have finished the night empty-handed.

'So important'
The hosts' perseverance ultimately told, however, Ciani opening his Bordeaux account by nodding in Grégory Sertic's corner on 83 minutes. The win takes Les Girondins joint top of the section with four points, and Ciani knows just how vital his strike may prove. "It's a very big moment," he told uefa.com. "It's my first goal for Bordeaux and what's more it came at a really important moment in a Champions League match. Taking the three points was so important."

Ideal replacement
Eyebrows were raised when Souleymane Diawara left to join rivals Olympique de Marseille, but Blanc appears to have found the ideal replacement in Ciani, who has adapted rapidly to the demands of the European game. "Champions League games are hard because you never get a moment of respite," the Frenchman explained. "Haifa have some very fast players and they caused us a lot of problems on the counterattack. We expected them to threaten us, but perhaps not quite so often. The important thing was that we stayed patient and kept playing."

Sertic delight
Ciani was not the only Bordeaux player sporting a broad smile after a landmark evening. Second-half substitute Sertic sampled his first taste of UEFA Champions League football, making a lively contribution and setting up the only goal. "The assist I provided feels like a goal to me," the 20-year-old midfielder told uefa.com. "I was making my debut in the competition so it was a very special moment." Yet with back-to-back matches coming up against FC Bayern München, Sertic knows there is still much work to be done. "All the teams in this group are very strong," he said. "We've made a good start but we mustn't get carried away."

'A good experience'
Haifa, meanwhile, were left to rue missed opportunities for the second match running, although left-back Tsepo Masilela was refusing to feel downhearted. "We're unlucky because they scored from a corner in the final minutes," the South African international told uefa.com. "We had two or three chances but their keeper did well. This is a good experience, though. We are enjoying it and hopefully we can pick up points in our next games. We're looking forward to playing Juventus. They're a big team who are doing well in their league. Let's see what happens."