Week 38 review: Monaco seal superb season
By S. Willis
AS Monaco capped their campaign with a 12th-straight win on the final day of the season, while Marseille fended off Bordeaux for a Europa League berth. Lorient are in the play-offs, while Bastia and Nancy were relegated.
AS Monaco have been doing the business all season long and their Week 38 clash in Rennes was no exception. Leonardo Jardim's men were 2-0 up shortly after the break and, despite a fight-back from the home side, ran out 3-2 winners. It was their 30th victory of a season in which they lost just three times while scoring 107 goals, the league's top total since season 1959-60.
"Everyone showed what a team we are. After one or two nights where the boys didn't sleep much they showed that quality and hunger of winners," said Jardim, winner of the UNFP award for Ligue 1 Coach of the Season, who rested several big names after clinching the title with a 2-0 win in the postponed Week 31 clash with Saint-Etienne on Wednesday night. "I think we've all had a great season and I'm happy for the squad."
OM project up and running
Meanwhile Marseille confirmed their encouraging end to the season under Rudi Garcia by beating SC Bastia 1-0 to secure fifth place and the Europa League qualifying place that goes with it. Captain Bafétimbi Gomis got the only goal of the game at the Stade Vélodrome and now the southern giants look ahead to a busy summer of restructuring and transfer action under new owner Frank McCourt and experienced sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.
"I'm happy for the squad, they have the reward for their work over the last six months. The squad deserves this fifth place, we now have to build on it as we are only qualified for the preliminary rounds of the Europa League," said Garcia. "But if you had said to me that we would finish fifth when I arrived, I would have signed for it with both hands."
The win meant disaster for Corsican side SC Bastia, who saw their place among France's elite vanish despite going into the match with every chance of staying up.
"It's a sad day for the club, the technical staff and the players. The players gave everything to win the game," said Bastia boss Rui Almeida, who arrived in March. "In three months, we've worked quite well in trying to find answers. Unfortunately, it hasn't been enough. I take my part of the responsibility for that too."
Joining Bastia in Ligue 2 next season will be AS Nancy-Lorraine who, in spite of a 3-1 win at home to Saint-Etienne - a rough final result for outgoing coach Christophe Galtier - finished in 19th place and make an immediate return to the second tier.
"Our players got into the game straightaway, which is what we wanted. But the results in other places didn't go for us," said Nancy boss Pablo Correa. "There's a feeling of sadness. The defeat to Lorient [at home in Week 30] weighs heavily in that. It hurts to be relegated. I take it as a personal failure."
Doubtless Lorient are as happy about that win over Nancy as Correa was saddened, as Les Merlus managed to beat the drop - for now - with a 1-1 draw at home to Bordeaux that saw them finish 18th and enter into a play-off against Ligue 2's third-placed side Troyes.
"We dug deep to the very bottom of ourselves to get the equaliser and hold onto the result," said Lorient boss Bernard Casoni, who now turns to preparations for the two-legged play-off on Thursday, May 25 and Sunday, May 28. "Now, we still have two matches to play. We still have our destiny in our own hands. It's up to us to prepare the match against Troyes well."
Caen delighted, Maxwell farewell
Meanwhile, with little left to play for after seeing their Ligue 1 crown head to the principality after a four-year stay in the capital, Paris Saint-Germain conceded a last-gasp 1-1 draw at home to SM Caen.
"When it finishes like that, it's fantastic. We're all very happy to still be in Ligue 1, which isn't to be sniffed at for Caen after a difficult season and a final match against PSG, where teams usually get hit for tennis scores," said Caen boss Patrice Garande. "It's a good season because we stayed united and kept believing right to the end."
The Normandy side were sent into raptures late on as Ronny Rodelin's last-gasp strike secured their top-flight survival, but the Parisians were more content to farewell departing Brazil left-back Maxwell, who wore the captain's armband as he capped a five-and-a-half-year, 13-trophy stay in the capital.
"Paris Saint-Germain will remain in my heart and the Parc will always be my home," said the beloved defender, for whom next Saturday's Coupe de France final against Angers will be his last PSG appearances. "I've had a lot of wonderful experiences here, not just on the pitch but also with the all the people at the club. Being captain tonight meant a lot to me; it was a great moment, for sure."
LOSC, OL, Nice put on a show
Nicolas De Préville's hat-trick saw LOSC beat Nantes 3-0 in their last match before the Ligue 1 return of Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa. Les Dogues thus ended a complicated season in 11th, while Nantes capped their impressive turnaround under new boss Sergio Conçeicao with seventh.
With their respective third- and fourth-placed finished already secured, Nice and Lyon put on a show at the Parc OL. Outgoing home-team striker Alexandre Lacazette bagged a brace to take his Ligue 1 goal tally for the club to 100, while Nice's Anastasios Donis also struck twice. Dijon and Toulouse ended the season with a scoreless draw.
Coach of the Season nominee Stéphane Moulin's Angers prepare well for their first cup final in 60 years by trumping Montpellier 2-0, while EA Guingamp finished in the top half of the table thanks to a 1-0 win over Metz, who ended up in 14th.