Troyes trump Lorient for top-flight spot
By S. Willis
ESTAC Troyes will be playing their football in Ligue 1 next season after beating FC Lorient 2-1 on aggregate in the play-offs. Jean-Louis Garcia's side held out for a 0-0 draw in Brittany on Sunday night.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Play-offs, return leg
Stade du Moustoir, Lorient
ESTAC Troyes 0 - 0 FC Lorient (Troyes win promotion 2-1 on aggregate)
There were scenes of celebration in the Champagne region on Sunday as ESTAC Troyes secured their return to Ligue 1 just a season after dropping out of the top flight. A 0-0 draw at Lorient's Stade du Moustoir was enough for Troyes after captain and playmaker Benjamin Nivet struck late on in the first leg to hand his side what turned out to be an instrumental advantage.
Despite having fit-again top scorer Benjamin Moukandjo - who set up Majeed Waris for the opener in the first leg - once again looking dangerous, and despite getting off to an intense and technically precise start, Lorient couldn't find a way to open the scoring.
Huff and puff...
Moukandjo found the post (4') and Arnold Mvuemba's free-kick drew a fine save from Mamadou Samassa (23') but Troyes came to life on the half-hour mark and carved out their own chances through Adama Niane (31'), Tristan Dingomé (32') and Jimmy Giraudon (35').
Although there had been plenty of chances, Niane was the first to get an effort on target, drawing the best out of Benjamin Lecomte (53'). Spurred on by their fans, Lorient then upped the pressure.
However, despite clear-cut chances for Les Merlus' former Troyes Prodigy Jimmy Cabot (70') and the luckless Moukandjo (78'), ESTAC Troyes held firm and cashed in their one-goal first-leg lead for a place among France's elite next season.
THE PLAYER: Romain Philippoteaux
That Lorient remained goalless in this crucial second leg was certainly not due to a lack of effort on the part of wide-man Philippoteaux, who was lively and inspired throughout the match. The former Dijon man gave opposite number Jérémy Cordoval a torrid night of it, skinning him to cross for Moukandjo's effort (21') and then nutmegging him in a dangerous position and drawing a yellow-card foul.
THE STAT: 11
Both of FC Lorient's first stints in Ligue 1 lasted only a season, the Brittany club spending the 1998-99 and 2001-02 campaigns in the top flight with immediate returns to Ligue 2, but when Christian Gourcuff took them up in 2007, it was a case of third time a charm.
Les Merlus have spent the last 11 seasons at the highest level, peaking with a seventh-placed finish in 2009-10 when France international Kévin Gameiro top scored with 17 goals, but now coach Bernard Casoni takes his troops to the second tier, doubtless to begin plotting a return to the nation's top division.