Week 36 review: UCL for LOSC; Guingamp down
LOSC all but guaranteed their place in next season's Champions League group stage in beating Bordeaux, but Guingamp's six-year stay in the French top flight came to an end with a draw at Rennes.
Lille have been champions Paris Saint-Germain's closest pursuers without interruption since Week 16, and they took a big step towards securing second place with a 1-0 win over Girondins de Bordeaux at their Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
It was a stunning goal that separated the sides on Sunday, with Loïc Rémy volleying home on the turn after a clever chipped free-kick from Jonathan Ikoné. The result leaves Les Dogues six points better off than third-place Olympique Lyonnais with six left to play for, but with a +14 better goal difference.
"We have a lot of emotion," said LOSC coach Christophe Galtier, clearly not expecting a mathematical miracle over the final two games. "I think about the president, who after a complicated season last season decided to build a playful team with young kids.
"I'm happy for him, I'm happy for all the staff and I'm proud of my players. I'm very proud to have grown with this group game after game, week after week, and to have built a great team. They've come a long way."
Lyon joining Lille?
Olympique Lyonnais are red-hot favourites to join PSG and Lille in pulling up a chair to European football's top table next season after they beat fellow European aspirants Olympique de Marseille 3-0 at the Orange Vélodrome in Sunday's late kick-off.
Marseille gave a good account of themselves until centre-back Duje Caleta-Car was sent off with a little more than 20 minutes to go, the gaps at the back allowing Moussa Dembélé to grab his team-high 14th goal of the season and Maxwell Cornet to complete his brace inside the final 10 minutes.
"Are we in the Champions League yet? No," said outgoing OL coach Bruno Génésio, refusing to get ahead of himself. " There are two games left, six points, and we must win next Saturday [at home to SM Caen] to be certain of a third-place finish and possibly qualify directly depending on the Europa League final."
'A failure' - Garcia
"We have to congratulate Lyon," said Génésio's opposite number Rudi Garcia, his sides European hopes dashed. "We wanted to win. We were coming back into it in the second half - Mario [Balotelli]'s header, Luiz [Gustavo]'s shot - but sometimes you need a bit of luck. Tonight, we're out of the running for Europe. That's a failure, obviously."
Lyon may still have some work to do but their fourth-placed Derby du Rhône rivals AS Saint-Etienne did them a favour by slipping up at home to Montpellier Hérault SC on Friday. Gaëtan Laborde scored the only goal in a game which saw both teams finish with 10 men.
ASSE still occupy the fourth and hitherto final European place, but La Paillade are now just four points back with two games to go, and their coach Michel Der Zakarian still believes a return to Europe after a seven-year hiatus is possible.
"The win was well deserved," he said. "From start to finish we had to fight against Saint-Etienne. We stopped them expressing themselves and played a quality match. We played a big game and the race for Europe isn't over. I'm glad Gaëtan Laborde scored. We thought Saint-Etienne would be in the Champions League tonight and they're not."
At the other end of the table, EA Guingamp's six-year stay in the French top-flight came to an end after a 1-1 draw at Breton rivals Stade Rennais FC. Alexandre Mendy scored three minutes from time to cancel out Ismaïla Sarr's opener for Rennes, but it proved too little too late on the day, and, ultimately, for the Ligue 1 Conforama campaign.
"We're very sad, of course," said vanquished coach Jocelyn Gourvennec. "It's something that can happen to a club. When I arrived in mid-November I knew it would be extremely difficult because we didn't have enough points and the team was stressed. I think we've improved as a team over the last six months. We deserved to win tonight, we gave up hardly any chances. But that's part of the game and we must accept it."
Caen and Dijon holding on
FC Metz and Stade Brestois 29 will play in the French top-flight next season, the latter sealing their promotion on a weekend that both Dijon FCO and SM Caen did their best to ensure that they wouldn't be joining Guingamp in passing them in the other direction.
Dijon had Kwon Chang-hoon to thank for a 90th-minute winner against Coupe de la Ligue champions RC Strasbourg Alsace, while Fayçal Fajr's free-kick was the pick of the bunch as Caen beat Stade de Reims 3-2 in Normandy.
Caen have occupied the relegation places for 14 of a possible 18 match weeks since the turn of the year, but they have managed to reel in AS Monaco - the principality side only above the relegation play-off place on goal difference.
Monaco getting sucked in
The last team not called PSG to win the French title, Monaco had enjoyed a spike in form after Leonardo Jardim was reappointed as coach in January, but their 1-0 defeat to Nîmes Olympique on Saturday was their seventh consecutive game without a win.
"We still believe that we can stay up," said the Portuguese tactician. "That's our objective, anyway. Our fate's still in our own hands. We're in a difficult situation. Perhaps we don't have a squad with the mental qualities needed for a relegation battle, but we need to keep going."
PSG back to winning ways
Runaway champions PSG had endured a stutter of their own in recent weeks, racing towards an eighth Ligue 1 Conforama title before stumbling over the line with one win in six. Thomas Tuchel's men were back to winning ways on Saturday, though, with Neymar Jr. and Angel Di Maria steering them to a 2-1 victory at Angers SCO.
Neymar has been handed a three-match suspension by the French Football Federation after a confrontation with a fan following last month's Coupe de France final defeat to Rennes, but Tuchel was glad to have the Brazilian back, not matter how fleetingly.
'Neymar's job to deliver' - Tuchel
"We're going through a difficult spell," he said. "We won, and it'll help us to get our confidence back. It was absolutely necessary to show a reaction, it was our last chance to do so. Neymar played well but these are things we expect from him - to be decisive for us, to score goals, provide assists. It's his job."
Elsewhere, OGC Nice played out a 1-1 draw with FC Nantes, Malang Sarr cancelling out Samuel Moutoussamy's opener at the Allianz Riviera, while Toulouse FC were held to a goalless draw by Amiens SC - a result which nonetheless all but guarantees Le Téfécé's survival.