Former Chelsea striker scores first Ligue 1 hat-trick

After joining Lille on a free transfer from Chelsea, the Ivorian scored his first hat-trick of his French football career.

It's taken him the best part of two seasons, but former Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou picked up his first Ligue 1 hat-trick on Sunday afternoon, scoring all three goals as Lille beat bottom of the table Ajaccio 3-2 in a crazy and action-packed game down on the island of Corsica.

Before this game, the forward from the Ivory Coast, had only scored once in his last seven games, starting the game with only seven goals to his name this season. Last season he finished with 14 goals, his form after the African Cup of Nations saving his first season from being a disaster.

During the January transfer window, Kalou was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, with Lille happy to do business as Kalou is their top earner on around €2 million per year. Nothing happened with Lille claiming Arsenal tried to do business too close to the window closing. Any deal on the final day wouldn't have allowed Lille any time to find a replacement.

For anyone who has watched Lille and Kalou regularly this season, it would be fair to say that Arsenal dodged a bullet in January. Overall Kalou has been poor, and his current goal scoring record masks how poor some of his performances have been this campaign. From his 10 goals this season he has only scored in seven out of 26 appearances and four of them have come from the penalty spot. Too often he has been missing from games, failing to turn up in most of Lille's most challenging games.

Against Ajaccio on Sunday he opened the scoring from the penalty spot after barely touching the ball in the first 25 minutes. That brought Lille level. He would give Lille the lead seven minutes from half-time, he drifted to the far right of the penalty box, and with no defender within four yards of him he added the first time finish to Jonathan Delaplace's cross.

The 28-year-old gave Lille the 3-2 lead 15 minutes from time when Lille got their second penalty of the game, a controversial decision, which after numerous replays, failed to clearly show why the referee made the decision. Kalou went the same way as his first stop kick, and added his and Lille's third of the game.

Coach René Girard will hope that this sparks Kalou back into life, and hopefully go on a run of games were he can be influential and keep up the goal scoring. Unfortunately the feeling amongst Lille fans is that Kalou will now go missing again, fail to be Lille's impact player, and most likely go a number of games again before he finds the net again.

The win takes Lille back into third place in the Ligue 1 table. If they want to stay there for the last 11 games, they will need Kalou playing at his influential best, maybe then he can again spark interest from the Premier League.

images: © Ben Sutherland, © Ben Sutherland

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