Dijon stay in top flight to leave Lens deflated
Dijon FCO overcame a feisty RC Lens side to salvage their Ligue 1 Conforama status with a 3-1 second-leg play-off win that gave them a 4-2 aggregate triumph over the second-tier outfit.
Dijon FCO 3-1 RC Lens (4-2 on aggregate)
Thursday's 1-1 draw at the Stade Félix Bollaert had left the tie slightly in the second-leg hosts' favour, but an injury to first-choice goalkeeper Alex Runarsson in the warm-up suggested the omens may be against them.
Dijon shrugged off the setback to begin smartly, however. Sory Kaba, preferred to Benjamin Jeannot to lead the line, flashed a vicious shot wide before Naïm Sliti, who had come off the bench to score in the first leg, did so in the second with a measured shot beyond Jérémy Vachoux (28).
Advantage Dijon, but not for long. Lens, who had finished fifth in Domino's Ligue 2 and overcome the odds just to get this far, again showed their resilience, and when Jean-Ricner Bellegarde's free-kick arrived in the penalty area, Jean-Kévin Duverne powered home a headed equaliser (39').
With the stakes high, both teams sought to minimise risk after the break. Vachoux did take one, and paid a heavy cost. The stand-in for the suspended Jean-Louis Leca lost control of a backpass and Kaba nipped in to tee up Wesley Saïd to edge Dijon ahead (71').
The ex-Stade Rennais FC forward's fifth goal of the season would not have been enough to keep Dijon in the top flight had Bobby Allain, who had stepped in between the posts at the last minute, not pushed out Mounir Chouiar's free-kick shortly afterwards (73').
Dijon had lost just one of their last ten competitive meetings with Lens, but five of those matches had been drawn, and a second strike for the northerners would have put them ahead on away goals.
Simon Banza might have been the hero had he not miscued a volley inside the Dijon box (85'), but when Sliti added a third from another Lens mistake already deep in added time, there was no way back for the visitors (90+1').
THE PLAYER: Naïm Sliti
Kombouaré had recently told his artful midfielder to buck his ideas up, and with three goals over the two legs, the Dijon coach got the response he was looking for.
THE STAT: 4
Dijon will play a fourth successive top-flight campaign after last being promoted at the end of the 2015/16 season.