Week 32 review: Lyon fall victim to Lorient as top three win
By S. Willis
Lyon's hopes of a Champions League finish were all but ended on Saturday as Lorient continued their upward charge with a 4-1 win at the Parc OL; Monaco, Paris and Nice all claimed victory to keep it tight at the top.
Olympique Lyonnais got off to the better start as Lorient came calling on Saturday evening, but a star turn from Cameroon striker Benjamin Moukandjo in the second half - an assist and two goals - saw Les Merlus claim a shock win to move to the very brink of safety while OL were left 16 points shy of third-placed Nice with six matches left to play.
Genesio: 'A feeling of shame'
"What comes to mind first is a feeling of shame because of the second half that we produced in front of our fans. I don't dare think that some people had their minds on the match with Besiktas," said OL boss Bruno Genesio, referring to Thursday's Europa League quarter-final first leg against the Turkish side. "The first half was good with a goal and chances to build on our lead, but the second period was not worthy. We gave up."
Lyon's chances of a podium finish are now slim at best, but Lorient's fortunes are on the up-and-up, Bernard Casoni's men having claimed a third win in a row to go level with 17th-placed Nancy on 31 points.
"We played a very good second half and ['keeper] Benjamin Lecomte was decisive. We felt solid. We give off a different attitude," said Casoni after his side's biggest win of the season. "What's encouraging is the pressing we did to try and get the third goal. But we have to stay measured in victory as well as in defeat."
Monaco manage Angers as Dortmund loom
Meanwhile league leaders Monaco faced a stiff test away to in-form Coupe de France semi-finalists Angers, but fit-again captain Radamel Falcao came up with the goods - a 25th goal of the season in all competitions - to clinch the 1-0 win that kept the principality side clear atop the table.
"We tried to play, but it was difficult because we were up against a quality side, very well organised with a very clear style. I think that we had three or four good opportunities with some great saves by the goalkeeper," said ASM coach Leonardo Jardim, who now has Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg away to Dortmund to prepare for. "Angers could have scored too and hit the post, but after 90 minutes, I think a one-goal win is fair."
Favre doubles down on title hopes
The win kept Monaco four points clear of Nice, who took provisional second place with a Mario Balotelli-powered 2-1 win in Lille on Friday night. The Italian international scored both goals as Les Aiglons came from behind to stay in the title race.
"We are not going to give up. We will keep taking things one game at a time," declared coach Lucien Favre, whose side continue to perform despite a raft of key injuries in recent weeks forcing certain adaptive measures. "We have changed our system, and switching to a 4-2-3-1 takes time, but we are also capable of reverting to a 4-3-3 tomorrow."
Patient Paris produce the goods
Thus Paris were obliged to win another in-form Coupe de France semi-finalist - Guingamp - came calling at the Parc des Princes on Sunday evening. The side coached by former PSG player and coach Antoine Kombouaré did well in the first half to deny Paris scoring chances, but Unai Emery's men remained patient and did the business in the second half.
"At half-time, we discussed how to improve things, to better use the space left by our opponents and get more bodies into the opposition penalty box. The first goal was the key. It saw us grow in confidence. In the second half, the team did the job," said Emery after the four-goal blitz from Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani and birthday boy Blaise Matuidi. "After Monaco and Nice had won, it was important to win tonight."
Bordeaux steal a march in race for Europe
European hopefuls Bordeaux took full advantage of Lyon's shock loss, a Valentin Vada double helping Jocelyn Gourvennec's men to shake off consecutive losses in the league and Coupe de France with 3-0 dismantling of FC Metz that saw them go just five points shy of OL.
Marseille could have stayed in fifth had they not drawn a third match in succession, 0-0 away to hard-to-beat Toulouse, and now Rudi Garcia's men need to keep an eye on resurgent Saint-Etienne, who drew 1-1 at home to in-form Nantes and who have their postponed Week 31 clash with Monaco still to play.
Bottom three win to thicken relegation plot
Draw specialists Stade Rennais saw their bid to return to the top half of the table stuffed by Nancy, who broke a winless run of eight losses in nine outings with a 3-0 win at the Stade Marcel-Picot that featured a double from eight-goal top scorer Issiar Dia.
Pablo Correa's side are now out of the drop zone in 17th but it's incredibly tight at the foot of the table, with just four points separating five sides following 16th-placed Caen's 2-0 home loss to Montpellier and bottom side SC Bastia's breaking a 13-match winless run with a 2-1 triumph in Dijon that sent the home sliding into 18th.