Lille clinch first Ligue 1 title since 1954

Reuters

Sat, 21 May 22:43:00 2011

* Surprise packages complete league and cup double

* Marseille secure automatic Champions League spot

Modest Lille's astonishing fairytale is complete after they claimed their first Ligue 1 title since 1954 as well as a league and cup double with a 2-2 draw at Paris St Germain on Saturday.

Lille have 73 points with one match left and enjoy an unassailable six-point lead over second-placed Olympique Marseille, who also drew 2-2 at home to strugglers Valenciennes.

"I'm going to thank our fans because they have been great throughout the season. We wanted to do it tonight, we did it," coach Rudi Garcia, whose team beat PSG in the Cup final on May 14, told French TV channel Canal Plus.

"They're a fantastic squad and someone has to tell them because they don't realise what they just did.

"When they will see each other in 15 or 20 years, they will have fantastic memories to share."

Lille, who notably beat defending champions Marseille 2-1 away in March, took control of the league in early December and surrendered top spot just once since in a season fans could only have dreamed about given the club's limited means.

The weekend could get even better for club president Michel Seydoux, a film producer who could be awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes festival for 'Pater'.

"Champions always look good because they are the most regular through the season," OM coach Didier Deschamps told Canal Plus.

"Congratulations to Lille, their players, their coach, their staff. Bravo."

Marseille are now certain to finish in second place and play in the Champions League next season with third-placed Olympique Lyon poised to grab a spot in the competition's third qualifying round.

Lyon, who were held to a goalless draw at home by Caen, have 61 points and lead fourth-placed Paris St Germain by two points with a better goal difference.

Stade Rennes, fifth despite a 2-0 home defeat by relgation-threatened Nancy, and Sochaux, sixth following their 2-1 win against St Etienne, will play in the Europa League.

MONACO IN DANGER

Former European Cup finalists Monaco were facing the prospect of being relegated for the first time since 1976 although they beat Montpellier 1-0 away.

The principality side still lie 18th in the standings, one point from safety with just a home game against Lyon to come next Sunday.

RC Lens and Arles-Avignon were already relegated.

At the Parc des Princes, Lille got off to a brilliant start with Ludovic Obraniak firing past Gregory Coupet from just outside the box after being left unchallenged by the defence.

With a Champions League spot at stake, PSG did not let go and levelled on the stroke of halftime when France striker Guillaume Hoarau scored from close range from a Nene cross.

Hoarau was sent off early in the second half for a second bookable offence and was soon followed by coach Antoine Kombouare, who had a spat with the officials and Lille's assistant coach.

Lille then went ahead on 59 minutes as Moussa Sow, the league's top striker, beat Coupet after collecting Eden Hazard's defence-splitting pass.

Midfielder Mathieu Bodmer equalised with a 25-metre thunderbolt in the 73rd minute to keep his team's Champions League hopes alive.

Marseille, who had scant hope of retaining their title, showed little motivation against Valenciennes.

Foued Kadir put the visitors ahead in the 32nd minute, but Marseille responded by scoring twice within three minutes through Andre Ayew and Loic Remy

Valenciennes, however, grabbed a priceless point thanks to Remi Gomis in the 66th minute. At Lyon's Gerland stadium, fans left the stands midway through the second half after asking for coach Claude Puel's resignation as their side struggled against lowly Caen.

 

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account