Week 37 review: PSG claim prize, Strasbourg, LOSC safe
By S. Willis
PSG took delivery of the Ligue 1 Conforama trophy despite falling 2-0 to Rennes, while promoted Strasbourg and embattled LOSC claimed precious wins to ensure their presence in France's top flight next season.
Paris Saint-Germain may have stitched up the Ligue 1 Conforama title back in Week 33, but Saturday evening saw the capital club get their hands on country's top footballing prize at the Parc des Princes - despite having conceded just a third league defeat of the season 2-0 to Stade Rennais FC in midfield legend Thiago Motta's last home game for the capital club before retirement.
"Every match at the Parc is special for us, and tonight was especially so as it was our last home game for the season. The Parc also celebrated Thiago Motta, a spectacular player. We will all remember him as one of the greats," said outgoing PSG boss Unai Emery, who on Sunday night received the UNFP Trophy for Ligue 1 Conforama Coach of the Season for his domestic quadruple-winning campaign. "Rennes turned in an excellent performance and deserved to win tonight, but of course we'll also remember the great moments we have had this season with our fans."
Lamouchi: 'Really proud'
Although Paris had other things to focus on, the result was a huge one for Rennes, who guaranteed themselves of at least a sixth-placed finish, meaning that European football is a certainty next season for the Brittany club, who had a rough start to the season.
"When I took over the club on November 9, I don't remember people inside the club or outside it talking about Rennes qualifying for Europe," said Sabri Lamouchi, for whom Benjamin Bourigeaud and Adrien Hunou were on target. "People don't remember that now. I'm really proud and really satisfied with the work we've done."
Mr Perfect on the spot
Meanwhile the race for second and the direct UEFA Champions League berth that goes with it took another turn as AS Monaco bounced back from their recent dip in form. They got the better of in-form AS Saint-Etienne thanks to a late penalty from spot-kick specialist Fabinho, who has never failed Monaco from the spot in Ligue 1 Conforama (12 successful penalties).
"This was a fair victory, especially on the basis of the second half when Monaco played to win," said Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim, whose side moved back into second, two points clear of third with just one match left to play. "The players showed the right attitude throughout. It's not over yet and we need to keep our heads on shoulders. If we win the next game, against Troyes, then it's done."
Strasbourg dig deep
Monaco's return to the driver's seat after a three-match winless run between Weeks 33 and 35 owes a debt to feisty Strasbourg, who dug deep to topple Monaco's nearest rival Lyon 3-2 and secure their top-flight survival in a thrilling encounter in front of their on fans in France's east.
"The lads did the work. I'm really happy that they succeeded," said Strasbourg coach Thierry Laurey, for whom Nuno Da Costa (88') and Dimitri Liénard (90'+4) produced the late goals that denied Lyon, who would have guaranteed themselves a Champions League group stage or qualifying berth with a win. "The previous three Ligue 2 champions before us had all gone down. We're not going to shout it from the rooftops, but this is a real achievement."
OM shaky but still dangerous as UEL final looms
The result leaves Lyon vulnerable to fourth-placed Olympique de Marseille, who drew a point closer despite being held 3-3 in a breathless trip to EA Guingamp's Stade du Roudourou. A late Florian Thauvin goal - his second of the match - rescued a point for OM, who let a two-goal lead slip before Ligue 1 Conforama Goalkeeper of the Season Steve Mandanda was sent off (66').
"We lost the match, well, we didn't win it, because of the first goal they scored. At 2-1 it was no longer the same match. We also forget to get going in the second half, and what happened happened. If we didn't win, it is first of all our fault," said OM boss Rudi Garcia, who is sweating the fitness of star man Dimitri Payet (thigh) and right-back Bouna Sarr ahead of Wednesday night's Europa League final against Atlético Madrid at Lyon's Groupama Stadium.
Galtier: 'A lot of things need changing'
Like Strasbourg, LOSC also managed to beat the drop on Saturday, a double from Lebo Mothiba bringing the side from a goal down to beat Dijon FCO 2-1 and move to 15th - their highest ranking since Week 20 - four points clear of 18th-placed Toulouse with one match left to play.
"We're relieved and that's the overwhelming emotion, more than joy and pride," said coach Christophe Galtier, who has shown extraordinary mettle to turn the club around since taking the reins in December. "I came into the club firmly believing the club would stay up, although I didn't expect the task to be so difficult. I will see whether the president wants me to continue and then see if things can be modified in a radical manner, as a lot of things need changing."
Mario, Saint-Maximin shine to keep European hopes alive
Mario Balotelli hit a double as OGC Nice hammered SM Caen 4-1 to move into sixth and stake a claim on a Europa League qualifying place, leaving Caen in 17th, three points clear of Toulouse and with a goal-difference advantage as their final-day clash at home to champions Paris Saint-Germain looms.
Les Aiglons will be looking for a result away to Lyon on the final day, knowing that any slip-up could see them leapfrogged by Bordeaux, who claimed a big 4-2 win over Toulouse to go seventh and leave their opponents in line for the relegation play-off against Ligue 2's Bourg-en-Bresse or Grenoble.
Thunderbolt not enough
Troyes had a chance to capitalise on Toulouse's result and climb to 18th after Karim Azamoum almost broke the frame of the goal with his ballistic opener, but Nicolas Cozza's first Ligue 1 Conforama goal secured a 1-1 draw for Michel Der Zakarian's side.
In mid-table action, Amiens claimed a 2-0 win over relegated Metz and Angers fell 2-0 at home to Nantes.