Ligue 1 roundup: Lyon keep European hopes alive, Auxerre fail to all but secure safety

Ligue 1 roundup: Lyon keep European hopes alive, Auxerre fail to all but secure safety
Lacazette was on fire yet again
Lacazette was on fire yet again
In the penultimate round of the Ligue 1 season, Lyon kept their European hopes alive with a 3-0 win over Reims, while Auxerre drew with Toulouse, missing the chance to all but secure safety. In mid-table clashes, Clermont beat Lorient to secure a top-half finish, while Nice won a thriller with Montpellier.

Angers 2 Troyes 1

Troyes remain without a victory in a staggering 20 Ligue 1 matches - the longest winless run across Europe’s top five leagues - following a 2-1 defeat to basement boys Angers at the Stade Raymond Kopa.

In a clash between two sides who had already been relegated, Troyes began assertively and were rewarded for their positive start within 15 minutes as Xavier Chavalerin’s sublimely-struck strike from outside of the area flew past Angers goalkeeper Yahia Fofana at his near-post.

The hosts were forced to be patient in their attempt to test out Mateusz Lis in the visitors' goal, and it took until shortly before the half-hour mark for the Southampton loanee to be called into action, as he acrobatically prevented Batista Mendy’s piledriver from nestling into the top corner.

With the break on the horizon, Les Scoistes sensationally struck back. Moments after dramatically being denied a penalty, Himad Abdelli unleashed a fearsome long-range half-volley from the resulting corner into the top left-hand corner via the underside of the bar.

Hoping to make it a league double following a 3-1 victory in August’s reserve fixture, Troyes manager Patrick Kisnorbo called upon the services of Mama Balde from the bench on the hour-mark, after the club's top-scorer had to sit out last weekend’s draw with Strasbourg due to suspension. However, it was the hosts who came closer to getting the next goal as Abdallah Sima struck the outside of the post before Lis did brilliantly to turn Pierrick Capelle’s effort against the woodwork within the space of two minutes.

After throwing the kitchen sink at the Troyes goal for the majority of the second half, Angers finally got their breakthrough in the 90th minute as substitute Lilian Rao-Lisoa curled an exquisitely-struck strike past Lis from just inside the area.

Muted celebrations followed at the full-time whistle, as Angers concluded their disastrous Ligue 1 campaign with only three victories on their own turf. Meanwhile, Troyes have fared only slightly better on their league travels - registering a not-so-impressive three wins from 19 matches - as both clubs prepare for a campaign in the second tier of French football next season.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Himad Abdelli (Angers)

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Clermont 2 Lorient 0

Khaoui opened the scoring

Goals either side of half-time allowed Clermont to claim all three points in their final home game while also boosting their strong run of results to end the season. As for Lorient, they extended their winless streak to three games.

Clermont and Lorient had nothing to play for in this penultimate round of fixtures, and the lack of urgency was noticeable on both sides.

Neither team took too many risks going forward, and the first real dangerous play only arrived in the 17th minute when Clermont came inches away from breaking the deadlock via Maximiliano Caufriez. The centre-back found acres of space inside the box and unleashed a first-time shot, but his effort rattled the crossbar when Yvon Mvogo was beaten, preventing the hosts from scoring the opener.

Clermont began to dominate possession as the game progressed and settled into Lorient’s half. Meanwhile, the visitors had major issues going forward,  failing to create anything dangerous in Les Lanciers’ final third. All signs pointed to a stalemate at the break, but both sides saved the best for the final five minutes of the opening half.

First, Ibrahima Kone had a golden chance to put the visitors in front from the penalty spot, but Mory Diaw made a spectacular save to deny the Mali international.

Less than a minute after that sequence, Clermont took advantage of a counter and broke the deadlock via Saif-Eddine Khaoui. The attacking midfielder received a nifty pass from Aiman Maurer and buried a shot past Mvogo to score the opener in the dying minutes of the first half, giving the home side a slender 1-0 lead.

Lorient attempted to play with a more aggressive approach in the second half, and it almost paid instant dividends, as Jean-Victor Makengo smashed the crossbar with a thunderous long-range effort that left Diaw helpless.

The hosts responded only a few minutes later, but this time, Grejohn Kyei failed to convert from close range as Mvogo came up huge to prevent Clermont’s second goal. The tempo then slowly decreased after an intense start, and even more so when both sides started to make substitutions left and right.

The hosts pulled away for good in the 76th minute via Caufriez, who once again proved to be a menace in set-piece situations. The defender found himself at the end of a corner and only had to tap the ball home from close range to double the hosts’ lead.

The win ensures Clermont a top-half finish, while Lorient have now gone three straight games without a win, ending the 2022/23 Ligue 1 campaign on a sour note.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Maximiliano Caufriez (Clermont)

Check out all the match stats here

Lyon 3 Reims 0

Lyon eased to a 3-0 victory over the 10 men of Reims in a match that acted as a farewell to Jean-Michel Aulas, who recently stepped down as club president. By picking up all three points, the hosts kept alive their slim hopes of qualifying for European football.

Lyon entered the contest looking for a win to boost their European hopes, and they could not have wished for a better start, taking the lead inside the opening two minutes when Reims defender Emmanuel Agbadou inadvertently deflected Bradley Barcola’s cross into his own net.

After falling behind, the visitors nearly found an instant response through Folarin Balogun, who could only drive the ball into the side netting.

Reims’ top scorer may have fluffed his lines, but Lyon’s main marksman, Alexandre Lacazette, had no such problems, thumping home from Barcola’s neat layoff to net his 27th league goal of the season.

Reims did their utmost to pull a goal back before the break, and they finally had the ball in the net in the 41st minute thanks to Junya Ito’s close-range strike. However, the celebrations were cut short due to an offside infringement in the build-up, ensuring the hosts took a two-goal lead into the break.  

After scoring an own goal in the first period, Agbadou’s evening went from bad to worse when he was shown a straight red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity in the opening stages of the second half.

Despite being a man down, Reims showed great character as they continued to search for a way back into the contest. In the 70th minute, Ito swept the ball home, but the assistant’s flag denied him once again, leaving the visitors to rue their luck. Just moments later, it was the turn of the hosts to have a goal ruled out for offside, denying Lacazette his second goal of the evening.

Lyon still managed to grab a third goal when Maxence Caqueret’s free-kick evaded everyone in the box before drifting into the far corner.

Seventh-placed Lyon will head into the final day of the season three points adrift of the top five, while Reims remain in 11th position.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)

Check out all the match stats here

Montpellier 2 Nice 3

A brace from Gaetan Laborde fired Nice from two goals behind at half-time to earn a 3-2 comeback win in an entertaining mid-table clash with Montpellier, ending a run of six matches without a win at this venue for Didier Digard’s side in the process.

With both sides having little to play for as they languished in mid-table prior to kick-off, fans would have been forgiven for thinking this match-up would lack energy. However, Montpellier were visibly eager to dispel such expectations and give themselves more credibility despite being one of several sides long since looking towards next season.

They converted that superiority into a lead inside seven minutes through Teji Savanier, as the skipper pounced on a scuffed clearance to cut inside and bury an unstoppable strike from the edge of the box.

Though suitably jubilant, Savanier wasn’t done there either, as Arnaud Nordin darted into the box and drew enough contact from Melvin Bard for referee Benoit Millot to point to the spot. Savanier duly dispatched from 12 yards, with memories of Montpellier’s crushing 6-1 defeat in the reverse fixture already looking distant.

With the home side now free to express themselves, a fluid piece of build-up play gave Stephy Mavididi the opportunity to net one of his own, but the outstretched leg of Kasper Schmeichel was able to keep his effort out.

The second period again started brightly for Montpellier, but it was the away side who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Ross Barkley was first to snatch one back, as the Englishman latched onto a pass from Laborde and finished past Benjamin Lecomte, planting some doubt in the hearts of Michel Der Zakarian and his side.

A revived Nice remained on top, and former Montpellier striker Laborde grabbed the equaliser, pouncing on a loose ball in the box to head into an empty net at the second time of asking.

Nice then completed their incredible fightback with just over 10 minutes of the 90 remaining, as the talismanic Laborde struck once more. This time he expertly rounded Lecomte to finish into the empty net, and while not meaning a huge amount in the bigger picture of Ligue 1, coach Digard will be delighted with the resolve his players showed to come back from what looked like certain defeat.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Gaetan Laborde (OGC Nice)

Check out all the match stats here

Toulouse 1 Auxerre 1

Neither side could find a winner

Auxerre failed to win for a sixth successive game as they battled to a 1-1 draw at Toulouse, meaning the Ligue 1 relegation battle will go down to the final matchday. 

Although the game had nothing riding on it for Toulouse, who had already secured their top-flight status, the Violets started the better of the two teams and very nearly took the lead after just seven minutes when Thijs Dallinga struck the post with a powerful header from a cross.

However, against the run of play, Auxerre took the lead courtesy of a stupendous effort from Rayan Raveloson, who picked up the ball on the edge of the area before bending his effort into the far bottom corner.

Toulouse may have fallen behind, but they continued to show plenty of attacking intent despite having failed to register a goal in their last four Ligue 1 matches, and they got the goal their performance deserved on the stroke of half-time through Zakaria Aboukhlal's emphatic diving header.

Philippe Montanier’s men continued to control the game after the break as they looked to end their four-game winless streak, and they were inches away from completing their comeback after 57 minutes when Dallinga fired a shot whiskers wide of the right post.

Going into the game just one point above the drop zone, Auxerre had the opportunity to all but secure survival with a victory at the Stadium de Toulouse - a win would put them three points ahead of 17th-placed Nantes with one game remaining - but they struggled to apply any pressure to their opponents throughout the second period.

Ultimately, the game ended with little in the way of further chances as the sides settled for a point apiece. As such, Auxerre know a victory at home to RC Lens on the final day will see them guarantee survival, although that will be easier said than done against Paris Saint-Germain’s closest challengers.

Anything less than a win will leave their fate in the hands of Nantes, who face already-relegated Angers.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Zakaria Aboukhlal (Toulouse)

Check out all the match stats here


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