Moukandjo back as Merlus' survival scrap starts
By S. Willis
FC Lorient have top scorer Benjamin Moukandjo back from injury as they head into the first leg of their play-off battle away to Ligue 2's third-placed finishers ESTAC Troyes on Thursday.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Play-offs, first leg
Stade de l'Aube, Troyes
ESTAC Troyes - FC Lorient
FC Lorient may be coming off a four-match winless streak (two defeats) but boss Bernard Casoni will most likely be able to count on fit-again top-scorer Benjamin Moukandjo as the Merlus look to make the most of their second chance at Ligue 1 survival against in Troyes on Thursday.
The Cameroon striker's absence with an adductor strain since the beginning of May has coincided with Lorient's dry spell, but on Wednesday assistant coach Franck Haise indicated that the hit-man should be back in action alongside partner in crime Majeed Waris: "He has been training well for three days now. I don't know whether he is ahead of schedule, but he is feeling great."
Down to the wire
The 13-goal striker's return should prove a big boost for Lorient, who have endured an emotional roller coaster that reached frenzy point when they were 1-0 down at home to Bordeaux on the final day of the season. Vincent Le Goff's 69th-minute strike to secure the draw brought them back from the brink but then Ronny Rodelin's equaliser for Caen at PSG shunted them into 18th place and the play-offs.
"When you give everything and have safety in your hands only to find yourselves in the play-offs two minutes later, for sure it is disappointing," admitted Casoni, who replaced Sylvain Ripoll at the helm in January, tasked with stretching the club's top-flight stay to 12 seasons. "Two minutes more and we would have been safe. No w the important thing is to recover well. The Bordeaux match cost us a lot of energy, but we need to be fresh both physically and mentally come Thursday."
Meanwhile, Troyes also had a nervy final day of the season, finding themselves slipping to third -despite claiming a 3-2 win in Sochaux - as Amiens scored just before the whistle ended six minutes of extra time.
"We had an even worse time of it than Lorient," said Troyes boss Jean-Louis Garcia, whose side are looking to make a direct return to Ligue 1 after relegation in season 2015-16. "It's just unbelievable. Obviously it was a really violent emotional rollercoaster."
The second leg will be played at Lorient's Stade du Moustoir on Sunday, May 28.
ESTAC Troyes: Samassa; Confais, Giraudon, Hérelle, Obiang; Grandsir, Azamoum, Dingomé, Darbion; Nivet; Nian
FC Lorient: Lecomte; S. Moreira, Peybernes, Ciani, Le Goff; Cabot, Mvuemba, Lautoa, Philippoteaux; Moukandjo, Waris