Week 36 Review: PSG within a point!
By S. Willis
Paris Saint-Germain's 6-0 win over Guingamp, coupled with Lyon's shock 3-0 loss in Caen, left the defending champions within just a point of a third-straight Ligue 1 crown. FC Metz punched their ticket for Ligue 2 next season.
Now six points clear of second-placed Olympique Lyonnais with two matches left to play, Paris Saint-Germain have all but stitched up the season 2014-15 Ligue 1 title. Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani starred as Laurent Blanc's men ran rampant over Guingamp, claiming his first-ever Ligue 1 hat-trick while Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged two goals and two assists in a masterful 6-0 win at home to Guingamp on Friday night - their seventh Ligue 1 victory on the trot.
"My feeling is that we played very well and continued what we have been doing over the last six or seven matches. I am not looking any further than that," said Blanc, whose side now need just a point from their remaining two matches to claim the title. "There are lots of positives tonight, so I'm very satisfied. I am very proud of the players. We will savour it and then turn our attention to Montpellier. I am very, very, very happy this evening."
Shock loss for OL
The comprehensive win, which also saw Brazil left-back Maxwell on the scoresheet, piled the pressure on Lyon, who needed a win away to Caen to keep the title race alive. But Hubert Fournier's men couldn't find the answers to the Normandy side's clinical Nicolas Benezet (41', 44') and Sloan Privat (85') and unbeatable 'keeper Rémy Vercoutre - who spent 11 seasons with OL - and slumped to a shock 3-0 defeat, effectively putting paid to their valiant title challenge.
"We don't have shoulders big enough to go all the way. We gave up; we didn't show enough throughout the game," admitted the OL boss after Saturday's loss. "In the second half, we were slightly better, but it wasn't enough against a Caen side that had the necessary attitude and commitment. We didn't manage to find the balance we needed. I hope that we show against Bordeaux (in Week 37) that we're much better than we looked tonight."
Lyon would need to win both their remaining matches - and hope that PSG lose both of theirs - by healthy margins to have any hope of a shock final-day title win, but fortunately for Fournier's side, their chances of locking down second place and direct Champions League qualification took a boost with Monaco remaining six points adrift in third after a 2-1 loss at home to Marseille on Sunday.
Lyon's defeat left the principality club in a good position to up the ante in their push for second, and things looked good for Leonardo Jardim's side when João Moutinho opened the scoring after just 45 seconds. However, a late surge from the visitors culminated in goals for André Ayew (79') and Romain Alessandrini (87'), and the 2-1 win left OM just two points shy of their south-coast rivals and in with a chance of pipping them to third and the Champions League qualifying berth that goes with it.
"It was a match with a lot of ups and downs and a lot of emotion," admitted OM coach Marcelo Bielsa, who remained upbeat despite having less-than straight-forward fixtures away to Lille and at home to Bastia on the cards. "As long as Champions League qualification remains a mathematical possibility, we'll keep believing and hoping."
Les Verts firm for Europe
Meanwhile Saint-Etienne harbour similar ambitions, their 5-0 drubbing of Nice leaving them locked on 63 points with OM. Les Verts' biggest win of the season, which featured goals from five different scorers, saw Christophe Galtier's men maintain a four-point lead over sixth-placed Bordeaux and all but clinch the Europa League place opened up by PSG's Coupe de la Ligue win.
Bordeaux's 2-1 win over Nantes in their last-ever match at the Stade Chaban-Delmas - Willy Sagnol's side move the brand-new Stade Bordeaux-Atlantique next season - saw Les Girondins remain in the running for the Europe, either by pipping Sainté to fifth place or should PSG complete an unprecedented domestic treble by beating Auxerre in the Coupe de France final on May 30.
However, seventh-placed Montpellier's 1-0 win away to relegated Lens - which came thanks to Anthony Mounier's injury-time strike - saw La Paillade maintain their hopes of breaching Bordeaux's three-point advantage, while Lille are now guaranteed of a top-ten finish despite falling 3-2 away to Toulouse. Bastia's 1-0 win in Rennes leaves them hoping to do the same.
Metz's dream over
Le Téfécé are now one of four teams locked on 42 points as the game of musical chairs in the lower reaches of the table claimed another scalp in the form of FC Metz. The North-eastern club's 4-0 home loss to FC Lorient was the final straw in their unsuccessful bid to beat the drop, while Evian TG FC's dramatic 3-2 home loss to Stade de Reims leaves the Alpine club - four points shy of 17th-placed Reims - favourites to be the third and final club sentenced to Ligue 2 football next season.