Week 38 review: OL, Bordeaux secure European dreams
By S. Willis
Lyon and Bordeaux both notched final-day wins to secure Champions and Europa League places respectively, while Troyes were relegated and Toulouse booked a place in the play-offs against Ligue 2's Ajaccio.
While already-crowned Ligue 1 Conforama champions Paris Saint-Germain could only manage a 0-0 draw with SM Caen - who needed at least a point to ensure their top-flight survival - in their final match under outgoing coach Unai Emery, the Spaniard was upbeat as the era of his replacement Thomas Tuchel began.
"Of course, we wanted to win, but it's also the case that Caen needed this point to stay in Ligue 1. We must congratulate Caen," said Ligue 1 Conforama Coach of the Season for 2017-18, who handed starts to a number of youth academy graduates, notably Liberian president and PSG old boy George Weah's son Timothy. "I leave PSG with a lot of positive things and I wish them the best for the future. I had a great experience with the players here. Everything that happened was positive."
Monaco hit their mark
Meanwhile 2016-17 champions Monaco stitched up second place with a 3-0 dismantling of ESTAC Troyes, Rony Lopes running rampant and bagging a brace to ensure Champions League football next season - and effectively condemn Troyes to an immediate return to Ligue 2.
"The big goal of the season was to qualify for the Champions League and stay among the top spots in the league. We knew it would be difficult to catch Paris this year," said AS Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim, while opposite number Jean-Louis Garcia, whose side would have been relegated due to other results even had they beaten Monaco, did his best to be circumspect.
"We were beaten by a much stronger team than ourselves. It's not a surprise. Toulouse won so we have fewer regrets," said the Troyes coach. "My players tried until the very end but it proved a bit beyond us. It's hard, we failed in our goal, we are extremely disappointed. We will analyse things, see what we missed, and then we'll see."
Memphis money again
Olympique Lyonnais secured third - and, thanks to Marseille's defeat in the UEFA Europa League final, direct qualification for the UEFA Champions League group stage - with a thrilling Memphis Depay-powered 3-2 win over European hopefuls Nice.
"We must congratulate the players, who played an exemplary season, qualifying for the Champions League, which was the goal," said OL boss Bruno Genesio, whose Dutch superstar bagged a hat-trick that included a superb free-kick. "It's quite emotional because our whole season hinged on this match Memphis [Depay] certainly had one of his best-ever seasons, like Nabil [Fekir] who led the team, completely fulfilling his role as captain."
Favre steps down
The defeat was a tough one for Nice, who could have finished sixth and earned a UEFA Europa League qualifying spot with a win, and for whom OL youth academy graduate Alassane Plea scored two excellent goals. It was also the final match in charge for coach Lucien Favre, and potentially Mario Balotelli's final appearance for Les Aiglons.
"This was my last match in charge of Nice tonight. I will be leaving Nice and France but I can't say more for now," said the Swiss tactician, who has been a huge hit in his two seasons on the Côte d'Azur. "I've had two fantastic years here, on a human and sporting level. It was great but leaving is part of football. It was my choice."
Marseille frozen out
Marseille were hoping to pip Lyon to third, or Monaco to second, with a win at home to Amiens, but despite the 2-1 victory at the Orange Vélodrome, Rudi Garcia's losing UEFA Europa League finalists had to make do with fourth and a return to Europe's second-tier competition.
"We must be proud of our team this season," said Garcia. "This is the first time that a team with 77 points has ever finished outside the top three. After the disappointment of losing the Europa League final it wasn't easy to come back and win this game, but the players did that and they did it well. There have been incredible moments at the Vélodrome and it was beautiful again tonight. We're delighted to have made the people of Marseille proud of the team."
Goals flow for ASSE, Bordeaux
Meanwhile Bordeaux turned on the style to clinch sixth and the final UEFA Europa League qualifying berth, hammering relegated FC Metz 4-0, while Saint-Etienne battered LOSC 5-0 - with a career-first hat-trick from Romain Hamouma - but ended up finishing seventh behind Bordeaux on goal difference alone.
Rennes secured fifth with a 1-1 draw at home to Montpellier and Nantes gave outgoing coach Claudio Ranieri a winning send-off 1-0 at home to Strasbourg, securing a top-ten finish (ninth) while Dijon toppled Angers 2-1 - and lost South Korean star Changhoon Kwon to injury.
Play-offs beckon for Toulouse
Guingamp ended their campaign just outside the top ten (12th) after falling 2-1 in Toulouse, a result that sealed Troyes' fate and set the TFC up for a relegation play-off against Corsican side AC Ajaccio, who beat Le Havre in their play-off to earn a shot at a return to the big time. The first leg will be played on Wednesday, May 23 in Corsica, with the reutnr in Toulouse on Sunday, May 27.