Lens, Caen clinch Ligue 1 promotion
Lens and Caen both secured their return tyo France's top flight on the final day of the season, Lens winning out 2-0 away to CA Bastia and pipping Caen to second place after the Normandy side drew 2-2 in Dijon.
It has been a nervy few weeks for the two clubs, both of whom could have secured promotion with wins last weekend, but on Friday night Lens and Caen got the job done in their final-day clashes and clinched returns to France's elite club competition.
Lens, who have performed far better on the road than at home in 2014 (six wins away compared to just two at home) were in their element away to long-relegated bottom side CA Bastia as Adamo Coulibaly got the ball rolling early with a diving header (6') before completing his double and clinching the result with a minute left in the first half (44').
The northern club, famed for its fighting spirit and legion of devoted fans, return to Ligue 1 after a three-year absence that involved dire financial difficulties and the resignation - and then return - of long-time president Gervais Martel as well as a close brush with relegation to the National (D3) in season 2011-12.
"We've made it! We were always confident, but still I'm moved because it has been a tough couple of years," said Martel after the win in Corsica. "There is so much passion and love at this club. But things are only just beginning, even though it's a formidable sporting moment tonight. The toughest - and the most beautiful - moments still lie ahead of us. I'm very happy to be going back to Ligue 1 and I'm sure we'll rediscover our values without getting big-headed. We can't afford to rest because we have a lot of work to do."
Caen come good
With Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at home to Nîmes in their postponed Week 28 clash, Caen had all but secured their Ligue 1 return, but goal difference still left Nancy in with a theoretical chance of bridging the gap.
However, even though Patrice Garande's men twice fell behind to Dijon, but a goal from Ligue 2 top scorer Mathieu Duhamel (44') and another from Jean-Jacques Pierre (65') - set up by Ligue 2 assist leader Fayçal Fajr (15) - gave them the point they needed to make sure of third place and a return to the top flight.
Caen came close to securing an immediate return to Ligue 1 after dropping down at the end of season 2011-12, and although their fourth-placed finish meant another year in Ligue 2, Garande has forged his men into a well oiled machine - featuring the top scorer and most prolific assist provider in the division - which will surely hold the Normandy side in good stead as they look to adapt to life back in the top flight.