Ligue 1 Winners and Losers from Penultimate Game of Season
In the penultimate week in Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain handed Gazelec Ajaccio a huge blow to its survival hopes on Saturday by comfortably beating the Corsican side 4-0 at the Stade Ange Casanova in Ajaccio.
Edinson Cavani's hat-trick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 35th goal of the season gave the champions all three points and helped manager Laurent Blanc's team break the Ligue 1 points record, per Press Association Sport (h/t ESPN FC).
It is their own record—beating the old record of 89 points that they set during the 2013-14 season—but with one game left it shows just how dominant they have been this year.
Gazelec move down to the No. 18 spot with the loss. They are level on points with Toulouse, but nine goals behind on goal difference.
Gazalec will finish their season away at Lorient, Toulouse have a tough trip away at Angers and Reims finish at home to the impressive Olympique Lyonnais.
Lyon all but secured Champions League football with a 6-1 win over Monaco, and Nice won the battle for fourth as they beat nine-man Saint-Etienne 2-0. Lyon manager Bruno Genesio’s team move three points ahead of Monaco with one week left and their goal difference makes their position look incredibly strong.
Down at the Allianz Riviera, Nice manager Claude Puel's team are just two points off Monaco and definitely have the momentum going into the last weekend. Third place is not out of the question.
Monaco finish at home to Montpellier and Nice are away at Guingamp. Neither of their opponents have anything to play for, so you would expect both clubs to pick up three points.
Here are the winners and losers of the penultimate week in Ligue 1.
Winner: Angel Di Maria (PSG)
After the winter break, Angel Di Maria hasn't quite been in the same form for PSG.
He had looked sensational and unstoppable, but some performances lacking imagination and spark affected his domestic and Champions League form.
On Saturday, the Argentine forward was back to his influential best, and two excellent passes set up Edinson Cavani for his first two goals.
With his wand of the left foot, he drilled two beautiful balls to the Uruguayan forward and Cavani did the rest.
The striker will receive the plaudits, but Di Maria was the architect.
Winner: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Under the guidance of Bruno Genesio, Lyon have been on a charge during the second part of the season. The team went into the crucial game with Monaco unbeaten at home and Alexandre Lacazette made sure that record remained intact.
Two early goals shocked the away side and had the Parc Olympique Lyonnais rocking with Lacazette finishing at the near post after Sergi Darder’s cutback.
The France international would finish with an excellent hat-trick, his second a beautiful dink over Danijel Subasic. That raises his tally for the season up to 21 and means the in-form forward has scored 11 goals in his last nine games with the club.
Lyon’s front line, with Lacazette at its centre, has been sensational since January and there is no doubt it deserves a place in the Champions League group phase.
Loser: Lacina Traore (Monaco)
When playing a tough away game, players need to defend from the front and everyone needs to keep their head—step forward Lacina Traore.
The tall centre-forward picked up a yellow card on 21 minutes for a late challenge on Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and then two minutes later eagerly tried to charge down Lyon's goalkeeper. Anthony Lopes beat him with a Cruyff turn and the bumbling forward brought him down and was handed a second yellow.
The score was only 2-0 at the time, and Lyon smelled blood and went for the kill.
It wasn’t all Traore’s fault, though, with Monaco defending like the back four had just met for the first time. But losing a player while already two goals down was the nail in the coffin for the Monegasque club.
Now the pressure will be on to beat Montpellier next week, or they could finish fourth.
Winner: Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Lyon)
Earlier in the season, the former Newcastle United defender had become a laughing stock of Lyon's failing campaign.
However, Genesio has turned things around and it has rejuvenated the centre-back.
On Saturday night, he played a huge role at the attacking end of the pitch, scoring twice, which all but summed up Monaco's destruction and Yanga-Mbiwa's newfound fame as a Lyon favourite.
mapou vu par les fans lyonnais ce soir pic.twitter.com/984UpWRtTb— Luciano (@LucienMagal) May 7, 2016
His first was a towering header from a first-half corner, and then he got a good break off the ball in the second period, finishing from inside the six-yard box.
Loser: Kossi Agassa (Stade De Reims)
Marseille had failed to win at the Stade Velodrome since the middle of September going into Saturday's fixture against Stade de Reims.
With the away side fighting for their Ligue 1 survival, the home side was struggling to break them down. So they were delighted when Kossi Agassa handed them the only goal of the game.
The Togolese goalkeeper dwindled on the ball and took too long as Michy Batshuayi charged down his clearance and the ball deflected into the net.
It's the Belgian's 17th goal of the season and his first at home since February.
One point would have been huge for the away side and would have left them level on point with Gazelec and Troyes. Now they sit as the favourites to drop to Ligue 2.
Winner: Oscar Trejo (Toulouse)
Toulouse have played much better football since the arrival of manager Pascal Dupraz this season, but that hasn't always transformed into results and they needed a win at home to relegated Troyes on Saturday.
It was a tough, tight, nervous game, but a moment of class from Oscar Trejo sealed the vital win. The Argentine midfielder collected a cutback from Adrien Regattin just inside the box, skipped inside Jessy Pi and finished low in the corner.
A vital three points shot Toulouse ahead of Gazelec by goal difference and go into the last weekend in 17th.
Winner: Valere Germain (Nice)
Hatem Ben Arfa has received the most press during Nice's excellent run this season, but not all has been about the former Newcastle United playmaker.
With 15 minutes left, Saint-Etienne found itself down to nine men and the game scoreless. Nice were looking for a hero. Step forward Valere Germain.
The French forward beautifully converted Alassane Plea's low cross from the right with just four minutes remaining, then he would expertly finish from a tight angle to seal the 2-0 win.
On loan from Monaco, Germain has scored 14 goals and has six assists. Well worth top-billing.
Winner: Edinson Cavani (PSG)
It's been a very interesting season for the Uruguayan striker. His hat-trick against Gazelec takes his total to 19 for the campaign. It's a fantastic return, but it doesn't remove the doubts from supporters that he is the man to lead this club after Ibrahimovic moves on.
The first was a good header, but you have to think that Clement Maury should have been more commanding in his area. Cavani's second, however, was an excellent piece of skill.
He took the ball under control at the back post before calmly slipping his shot past Maury. He would seal the triple with a header similar to the first. This is the most goals he's scored in Ligue 1 since arriving from Napoli, yet, he remains a marmite striker.
You either rate him or you don't.