Toulouse pull off great escape
By A. Scott
Toulouse FC escaped relegation in the most dramatic of circumstances, coming from behind to beat Angers SCO 3-2 at the Stade Jean-Bouin with Yann Bodiger scoring the winner.
Angers SCO 2 - 3 Toulouse FC
Pascal Dupraz's men knew a win would keep them up regardless of events elsewhere but things were not going to plan with Billy Ketkeophomphone putting Angers in front early on before Martin Braithwaite blazed a first-half penalty over the bar.
Wissam Ben Yedder briefly brought TFC level with his 17th league goal of the campaign but Saïd Benrahma came off the bench to put the home side back in front. However, the game was set up for a dramatic finale with Toulouse aware that Stade de Reims were beating Olympique Lyonnais in Champagne country and that only three points would therefore do.
Braithwaite equalised in the 78th minute and Bodiger netted from a free-kick two minutes later as Toulouse made it five wins from 10 games under Dupraz. They had been 10 points adrift of safety when the former Evian-Thonon-Gaillard coach took over at the start of March and no club has ever survived from such a position of adversity so late in the season.
They can now look forward to a 14th consecutive top-flight campaign next season, while the disappointment for Angers at losing is tempered by the fact they clinched a first top-half finish in the top division since 1974, Stéphane Moulin's men coming in ninth.
Angers were without two key components of their side due to suspension, with both centre-back Romain Thomas and midfielder Thomas Mangani ruled out. Romain Saïss started in defence on his return to the team.
Toulouse's improvement under Dupraz has been considerable but they hadn't won any of their previous seven away matches and Angers have one of the meanest defences in Ligue 1. That back line was almost breached inside 10 minutes when Braithwaite was fouled right on the right-hand edge of the penalty box by Gaël Angoula but Adrien Regattin's resulting free-kick landed on the roof of the net.
Angers went on to break the deadlock from their first chance in the 12th minute. A fine move down the left flank ended with Gilles Sunu trying to cut the ball back for Ketkeophomphone in the middle. Steeve Yago intercepted but could not properly clear and Ketkeophomphone lashed home his fifth league goal of the campaign past Alban Lafont.
Etienne Didot had a shot saved before Toulouse won a penalty when his attempted cross struck the arm of Cheikh N'Doye inside the area. However, captain Braithwaite could not keep his cool and blasted his attempt over from 12 yards.
The Dane then found the target with a header but his effort was well saved by Alexandre Letellier in the home goal and there was more frustration for the visitors early in the second half as the goalkeeper denied Marcel Tisserand.
The equaliser was coming though, and Toulouse drew level just before the hour mark. Not long on from the bench, Óscar Trejo slipped a pass through for Ben Yedder who beat Letellier at his near post to take his tally for the campaign to 23 in all competitions.
There was another twist to come, though. Benrahma, on loan from OGC Nice, emerged from the bench and within a minute he had put Angers back in front. Trejo was dispossessed in midfield and the ball came to Benrahma wide on the right. He skipped inside Jacques-François Moubandje and curled a shot from 25 yards over Lafont, who was caught slightly off his line.
To their credit, Toulouse did not let the heads go down. Trejo stabbed a shot just wide after a well-worked free-kick by Regattin and a Braithwaite centre was turned against his own bar by Saïss before Letellier kept out a Ben Yedder volley.
The second equaliser then arrived in the 78th minute as Braithwaite got in front of Ismaël Traoré to convert a Pavle Ninkov right-wing cross from six yards, and they now had the momentum. Two minutes later Ben Yedder was fouled right on the edge of the box, wide on the right, by Angoula. Bodiger stepped up to dispatch the award high into the net at the near post, finding the perfect moment to grab his first Ligue 1 goal.