Lille claim Ligue 1 title to break PSG’s dominance

Published May 25, 2021
ANGERS: Lille players pose for a group picture after winning the Ligue 1 match against Angers at the Raymond-Kopa Stadium.—AFP
ANGERS: Lille players pose for a group picture after winning the Ligue 1 match against Angers at the Raymond-Kopa Stadium.—AFP

PARIS: Lille clinched their first Ligue 1 title since 2011, becoming only the second club since 2013 to break Paris St Germain’s dominance as an enthralling title race ended on Sunday.

PSG had to better Lille’s result, but Lille won 2-1 at Angers and PSG won 2-0 at Stade Brest in one of the most exciting French seasons for many years.

An early Jonathan David strike and Burak Yilmaz’s penalty in first-half stoppage time put Christophe Galtier’s side on 83 points, one ahead of defending champions PSG.

Victory gave Lille a fourth French crown and stopped PSG from sealing a record-equaling 10th to join Olympique de Marseille and St Etienne.

“It’s just exceptional, it was a long day with a lot of pressure,” said Galtier, who could be leaving the club after four seasons in charge following a change of president during the season. “Beating PSG on the last day is outstanding. The players were incredible ... all credit goes to them, they are the heroes.”

PSG’s Neymar missed a penalty before Kylian Mbappe netted his league-leading 27th goal in vain on the night he was voted the league’s best player and Galtier was named best coach for the third time.

“Finishing top scorer in the league for the third time is something to be proud of, but it’s not the moment to rejoice,” said Mbappe, who is touted to join Spanish giant Real Madrid next season. We lost the title and it’s time to concentrate on the future.”

Monaco secured third place with 78 points and a spot in the Champions League despite a 0-0 draw at RC Lens as Olympique Lyonnais slumped to a 3-2 home defeat by Nice to finish fourth on 76 and will enter the Europa League.

Lyon coach Rudi Garcia, who coached Lille’s previous title success, confirmed he will leave the club.

“We are very disappointed tonight. It’s a nightmare scenario,” Garcia said. “It’s my last match. I would have liked to leave with the club in the Champions League [but] the adventure ends here.”

Lyon forward Memphis Depay finished top in the league with 12 assists in his final season with the club. He is touted to join either Barcelona or Juventus and thanked Lyon’s fans after 75 goals in 176 games since joining from Manchester United in January 2017.

“I have really appreciated what you gave me as a player,” the Netherlands forward said. “I really appreciated how you were with me and I have a lot of respect for you. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.”

Marseille drew 1-1 at Metz after the teams traded penalties deep into stoppage time as they ended up fifth on 59 points to also secure a Europa League place.

Arkadiusz Milik struck in the 14th minute of added time in an incredible ending to a match which came seven minutes after Farid Boulaya had given 10th-placed Metz the lead with a stoppage-time spot-kick of his own.

Stade Rennes, sixth on 58 thanks to a 2-0 home victory against Nimes, qualified for the Europa Conference League.

Nantes finished 18th after a 2-1 home defeat by Montpellier and go into a playoff against Ligue 2 side Toulouse. Nimes and Dijon were already relegated. Troyes and Clermont have been promoted to the top flight.

The outcome of such an unusually intense French title race achieved the rare feat of resonating way beyond the nation. Broadcast rights for the final days simultaneous coverage of the 10 matches were sold to nearly 100 countries, the French league said.

All eyes, even those of PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi through his phone, were on Lille’s game at Angers as a failure to win by the northerners would have handed the capital side another League title provided they beat Brest.

But there was little suspense as Lille were 2-0 up at halftime thanks to David’s cool finish and Yilmaz’s spot kick.

Canadian young gun David latched on to a superb Renato Sanches pass to coolly slot home his 13th of the league season with nine minutes on the clock, immediately calming any nerves after last week’s disappointing draw with St Etienne left them needing a win to make sure of the title.

David was the man who won the penalty just before the break, Paul Bernardon bringing the 21-year-old down and allowing Yilmaz to score his 16th league goal of a remarkable season for the veteran Turkey striker.

Angelo Fulgini pulled one back in added time at the end of the match, but the hosts couldn’t stop Lille becoming champions.

The match was played behind closed doors due to Covid-19 restrictions but fans poured into the streets of Lille to celebrate at the final whistle.

Supporters lit flares and chanted songs in the northern city’s central Place Charles de Gaulle in jubilation at a historic triumph against far wealthier opposition.

PSG struggled against Brest and were lucky to reach the interval with a 1-0 advantage after Angel Di Maria’s curled corner kick was deflected into his own net by Romain Faivre after Neymar had missed a penalty.

Mbappe added another in the second half at the end of a sharp counter attack in the 71st minute but by that time the destination of the title was already as good as certain.

Final standings

(Tabulated under played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points)

Lille OSC 38 24 11 3 64 23 83

Paris St Germain 38 26 4 8 86 28 82

AS Monaco 38 24 6 8 76 42 78

Olympique Lyonnais 38 22 10 6 81 43 76

Olympique de Marseille 38 16 12 10 54 47 60

Stade Rennes 38 16 10 12 52 40 58

RC Lens 38 15 12 11 55 54 57

Montpellier 38 14 12 12 60 62 54

Nice 38 15 7 16 50 53 52

Metz 38 12 11 15 44 48 47

St Etienne 38 12 10 16 42 54 46

Girondins Bordeaux 38 13 6 19 42 56 45

Angers 38 12 8 18 40 58 44

Stade Reims 38 9 15 14 42 50 42

Strasbourg 38 11 9 18 49 58 42

Lorient 38 11 9 18 50 68 42

Stade Brest 38 11 8 19 50 66 41

Nantes 38 9 13 16 47 55 40

Nimes 38 9 8 21 40 71 35

Dijon 38 4 9 25 25 73 21

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2021

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