Week 37 review: OL bag second… almost
By S. Willis
Olympique Lyonnais are all but certain of finishing second after dismantling rivals AS Monaco 6-1 on Saturday night; OGC Nice beat Saint-Etienne 2-0 to keep Champions League hopes alive and Toulouse moved closer to safety.
Only the most pathological of optimists would say that Monaco still have a chance of claiming second place following their 6-1 collapse at the Parc OL on Saturday, even though in theory they could still claim direct Champions League qualification should OL lose to Reims and should the principality club beat Montpellier by around 20 goals!
Lyon had been waiting for this clash since January and Bruno Génésio's men burst out of the gate, Rachid Ghezzal opening the scoring early before Alexandre Lacazette bagged a double and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa - who had never before scored for OL - a brace to make Ricardo Carvalho's reply scant consolation for a Monaco side reduced to ten men after Lacina Traoré's red card (23').
"It's like a dream. It is beyond what we hoped. We started brilliantly and that liberated us for the rest of the game," said the OL boss who took over from Hubert Fournier on December 28 with the club in ninth place, winless in six league outings. "I am proud to have achieved an objective which in January did not look like it was going to be easy. I am also proud of the work done with all my staff and at having given this team a soul again."
Jardim: 'Hold onto third'
Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim, meanwhile, conceded that his will need to be looking over their shoulder as they look to close on Champions League option B.
"The match had barely started and from their first two attacks they scored two goals. Then came the red card and the match was finished. After that we lost hop," offered the Portuguese, whose side play host to a Montpellier outfit who have now won four on the trot. "It is up to us to maintain the energy needed to hold onto third."
Nice shooting for UCL
The result leaves ASM just two points ahead of OGC Nice, who had late goals from Valère Germain to thank for a 2-0 win over direct European rivals Saint-Etienne, who had been reduced to nine men following reds for Kévin Malcuit and Franck Tabanou. Les Aiglons now sit in fourth place and cannot fall below fifth even if they lose in Week 38 - meaning they are guaranteed of at least a place in Europa League qualifying.
"I hope this group of players gets to experience playing in Europe together," said Nice boss Claude Puel, whose side travel to 15th-placed EA Guingamp - who drew 0-0 with a Lille side missing injured playmaker Sofiane Boufal - on the final day of the season. "The majority of the current team will still be there next season. In what was an important and decisive match, my players rose to the occasion, even although it was not easy."
Saint-Etienne - whose 'keeper Stéphane Ruffier hadn't conceded in almost 700 Ligue 1 minutes - are now left to fight for their European future at home to LOSC in Week 38, a match in which anything but defeat will leave them in fifth and on track for Europe. However, even if they lose - and the same goes for Lille - a place in Europa League qualifying could still open up for sixth place should Paris Saint-Germain retain their Coupe de France title against Olympique de Marseille on May 21.
Neither LOSC nor Saint-Etienne need to watch out for Stade Rennais coming up the inside, however, following the Brittany side's 2-0 loss in Montpellier. Rolland Courbis's side have fallen off in the last month, losing four in a winless streak of five matches to sit seventh, five points adrift of LOSC.
The Great Escape?
Meanwhile in relegation territory, Toulouse continued their amazing comeback under coach Pascal Dupraz with a 1-0 win over already-relegated Troyes that sent them out of the bottom three - ahead of GFC Ajaccio on goal difference - for the first time since Week 10.
Argentine striker Oscar Trejo scored the all-important goal that leaves Dupraz's side just a final-day win in Angers away from safety: "[To journalists] Do you think we will stay up? When I arrived it wasn't the case. I am extremely proud to remind you that I am going to win my bet with you."
Dogfight goes down to the wire
The win saw Toulouse leapfrog GFC Ajaccio and Stade de Reims, both of whom had rough nights again Ligue 1 heavyweights. Gazélec, reeling from a tough loss to Lyon in Week 36, had their survival hopes dealt another blow as Edinson Cavani helped himself to a first hat-trick of the season as Paris Saint-Germain handed the Corsicans a 4-0 hiding in which the Uruguayan took his tally to 19 while Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged his 35th late on in the piece.
The win saw Paris Saint-Germain - who had Ibrahimovic named as Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the third time and coach Laurent Blanc handed a second successive Ligue 1 Coach of the Year gong in Sunday's UNFP Trophies - set a new Ligue 1 points record (92) ahead of their final-day trip to Nantes, who fell 2-1 in a low-stakes match at home to SM Caen.
OM break home-ground hoodoo
Stade de Reims are now favourites to join ESTAC Troyes in Ligue 2 next season after they became the first side to lose at the Stade Vélodrome since September. Olympique de Marseille, still struggling for form, had a freak Michy Batshuayi goal - his 17th of the season - to thank for the result that must have been something of a balm for the club's fans, unsettled by a beleaguered season.
SC Bastia conjured a perfect home-ground farewell to retiring stalwart defender François Modesto, Yannick Cahuzac scoring the only goal of a 1-0 win over Angers, while Bordeaux had giant Malian striker's Cheick Diabaté's brace - plus a first Ligue 1 strike for Brazilian Malcom - to thank for a 3-0 win over Lorient.