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Kovač draws 1st game in charge of Monaco; Nice beats Lens

PARIS (AP) — Former Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovač's first game in charge of Monaco saw his new side rally from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Reims on Sunday. A short drive away along the French Riviera to Nice, striker Amine Gouiri scored two fine goals on club debut in a 2-1 win against promoted Lens.

Kovač was fired by Bayern last November despite leading the German giant — which faced Paris Saint-Germain later Sunday in the Champions League final — to a league and cup double in his first season.

But they parted ways following a humbling 5–1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt and he may have been fearing a similar result after Monaco leaked two goals inside the first 21 minutes. “I was shocked and surprised at the start of the game. We conceded two goals from two shots,” Kovač said. “But the players understood that they should never give up and that nothing's impossible."

Reims striker Boulaye Dia put the visitors ahead after five minutes at Stade Louis II. Then things got even worse when forward El Bilal Touré dribbled to the edge of the area and beat goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte with a fine shot.

“We made mistakes early in the game,” Kovač said. “But we showed very good fitness and a lot of motivation for the next 70 minutes." Defender Axel Disasi pulled a goal back against his former club in first-half stoppage time, and fellow center half Benoît Badiashile equalized in the 55th from Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin's free kick.

Monaco dominated possession thereafter but could not find a winner. Gouiri gave coach Patrick Vieira's Nice the cutting edge. The 20-year-old Frenchman was signed from Lyon for 7 million euros ($8.3 million) and showed the kind of ability that saw him finish top scorer at the under-17 European Championship in 2017.

After Gaël Kakuta put Lens ahead with an early penalty, Gouiri leveled midway through the first half. He curled the ball in from the edge of the penalty area into the top right corner. His second goal in the 75th was almost identical as he cut past a defender just outside the area and curled the ball into the same spot.

“He's a young player with a lot of ability,” Nice's veteran Brazilian defender Dante said. “I hope he keeps going like this because he can help us this season.” In other matches, promoted Lorient rallied to beat Strasbourg 3-1 and Nimes routed Brest 4-0 with two goals in each half.

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