Week 37 review: Lyon in top three, Monaco almost safe
By A. Scott
Olympique Lyonnais secured a top-three finish, AS Saint-Etienne confirmed their return to Europe and AS Monaco all but secured their survival on a dramatic penultimate weekend of the 2018-19 Ligue 1 Conforama season.
Having put their April wobble behind them, Lyon knew a win at home to relegation-threatened SM Caen at the Groupama Stadium on Saturday would confirm their place on the podium for the fourth time in five seasons. They duly cruised to a 4-0 victory, with all the goals coming in the second half. Memphis Depay scored twice, with Maxwel Cornet and Moussa Dembélé on target in between as OL secured a return to the Champions League for next season.
"We will savour this all together. We have deserved it over the course of the season, and we have fulfilled our two main objectives. We have many regrets with the way we went out of the Coupe de France, but overall it has been a successful season," said coach Bruno Genesio, who is leaving the club at the end of the campaign, set to be replaced by a new Brazilian management team of Juninho Pernambucano and Sylvinho.
Lille confirm second place
Above them, LOSC clinched second place and with it a guaranteed berth in next season's Champions League group stage as Christophe Galtier's side crushed Angers SCO 5-0 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. Nicolas Pépé scored twice against his old club - including a penalty - to take him to 22 goals for the campaign. Jonathan Ikoné, Jonathan Bamba and Luiz Araújo were also on target as Lille scored five for the third time in their last four home games. They have lost just once in 18 league games in 2019 and are now just one point away from matching their title-winning tally from 2011.
"I think that we have been the best side behind Paris and some of our players have to be in the Ligue 1 team of the season," said Galtier.
Les Verts back in Europe
Saint-Etienne secured a return to the Europa League for the first time since the 2016-17 season after a 3-0 win at home to OGC Nice in a carnival atmosphere at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard saw them clinch fourth place. Leading scorers Rémy Cabella and Wahbi Khazri were both out suspended but Robert Beric netted a brace before Romain Hamouma wrapped up the win late on.
"We have had a very good season and it could have been exceptional. It would have been miraculous had we been able to get into the top three," said Les Verts coach Jean-Louis Gasset, but there are major doubts as to whether he will remain in charge to lead the club back into Europe next season.
Paris Saint-Germain finally got their hands on the Hexagoal trophy in a title party at the Parc des Princes at the end of their 4-0 win over Dijon FCO. Kylian Mbappé returned from a ban and scored twice to move onto 32 goals for the campaign, after Ángel Di María and Edinson Cavani had both struck early as Thomas Tuchel's side made it back to back wins for the first time since March.
For Dijon, the defeat condemned them to the bottom three, although they could yet leapfrog Caen and snatch the relegation play-off spot. There are two points between the sides, but Caen have a better goal difference as well so a draw on the final day would probably be enough for them to avoid automatic relegation.
Jardim: 'A big step'
However, the Normandy side will also go into their last game still in with a chance of climbing out of the bottom three altogether. They are two points behind Amiens SC, who lost 2-0 to Monaco at the Stade Louis II. A 15th goal of the season for Radamel Falcao and a late Aleksandr Golovin strike gave the 2017 champions a huge win that just about confirms their survival. They are three points clear of 18th-placed Caen and a goal difference better by seven.
"We have taken a big step towards safety with these three points and with the results elsewhere, but we are not safe yet," insisted coach Leonardo Jardim.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Montpellier Hérault SC's European dream finally died as they drew 1-1 with FC Nantes. Florent Mollet's deflected late free-kick earned them a point after Kalifa Coulibaly opened the scoring for Nantes, who are now unbeaten in seven games.
Olympique de Marseille host Montpellier on the last day knowing a win will see them leapfrog their opponents into fifth after Rudi Garcia's side won 5-2 away at Toulouse FC. Morgan Sanson, Hiroki Sakai and Clinton Njie netted for OM before Florian Thauvin grabbed a late brace. Aaron Leya Iseka and Max-Alain Gradel were on target for Toulouse, who are now safe.
Nîmes Olympique came from two goals to draw 2-2 at relegated EA Guingamp, while Suk Hyun-jun's goal gave Stade de Reims a 1-0 win at Girondins de Bordeaux, who have now lost six in a row. A fine Benjamin Bourigeaud goal and Adrien Hunou's late effort gave Coupe de France winners Rennes a first win in 10 league games, 2-0 away at Coupe de la Ligue winners RC Strasbourg Alsace.