By Eskender Tamrat
When: 2:45PM EST, Thursday, May 25th, 2017
Where: Stade de l'Aube, Troyes, France
Betting Line: OFF
TV Coverage: beIN Sports
FC Lorient (10-6-22) will be away at Troyes AC (19-9-10) in the first leg of the relegation/promotion playoff tie on Thursday. Bernard Casoni's troops were minutes away from sealing a direct safety before Stade Malherbe Caen (10-7-21) netted a late equalizer at the capital against Paris Saint-Germain (27-6-5), as they also managed only a point against F.C. Girondins de Bordeaux (15-14-9). Troyes ended the second-tier season with four successive wins, but a last-gasp strike for Amiens SC (19-9-10) against Stade de Reims (14-13-11) relegated them to the playoff spot after coming close to earn a direct promotion.
Troyes are looking for an immediate promotion to Ligue 1 after their last season's horrid time in the first-tier. They lost both matches against Lorient, as the Brittany side finished seven points clear of the bottom three when Troyes relegated with only 18 points from 38 rounds.
A home win against European-hopefuls Bordeaux would have been enough for Lorient to decide their fate by themselves, but they only secured a draw against Jocelyn Gourvennec's side, who will wait for the Coupe de France final result to book their place in next season's Europa League. Younousse Sankharé put the visitors ahead in the seventh minute and it took Lorient more than an hour to level the score.
Fullback Vincent Le Goff netted the equalizer to send Lorient to the playoff. If it wasn't for Le Goff's first league goal of the season, AS Nancy (9-8-21), who were 3-1 winners against mid-table side AS Saint-Étienne (12-14-12), would have finished eighteenth courtesy of superior goal difference. With Caen playing away at PSG, the draw seemed enough to help Lorient steer clear from the drop zone. But Sylvio Ronny Rodelin – not least, after missing a penalty-kick fifteen minutes from time – scored an invaluable goal for Caen to leapfrog Lorient at the eleventh hour.
The biggest drama of the season end took place on Friday, however, when six clubs went into the final matchday with a chance of winning the Ligue 2 trophy. All six won their respective matches and there was no change in standings from the previous week at the end, but the proceeding was far from normal. Surviving a bankruptcy, RC Strasbourg Alsace (19-10-9) won their fixture with relative ease to finish top of the league, 2-1 winners against delightfully named Football Bourg-en-Bresse Péronnas 01 (11-11-16).
Fifth-placed Stade Brestois 29 (19-8-11) were the big winners on the day (at least, scoring wise) – 6-2 against AC Ajaccio (13-9-16) – but they were dependent on other results, same with Nîmes Olympique (17-13-8), who staged a late comeback win at bottom-placed Stade Lavallois (5-15-18) 2-1. So it was left for three sides to battle for the one automatic promotion place and the playoff spot. RC Lens (18-11-9) beat tenth-placed Chamois Niortais F.C. (12-13-13) but dragged back to the playoff spot when Troyes snatched a winner two minutes from time at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard (11-13-14) – they were two goals down until the hour mark. But there was one last shift before the end at Reims. Amiens, who never played in Ligue 1, snatched a late winner to immediately climb from sixth place to the automatic promotion spot. It means Lens missed out on the sight of promotion altogether, while Troyes have to deal with the stiff challenge against Lorient over two legs.
1. After impressive wins at Nancy and Olympique Lyonnais (21-4-13), Lorient ended the season with three successive defeats away from home.
2. Troyes (13-4-2) only lost twice at home in Ligue 2 this season.
3. Troyes' striker Adama Niane finished Ligue 2's top-scorer with 22 goals from 34 appearances.
Playing away from home first could boost Lorient's chances, as a score draw at Troyes would set things up nicely for the Sunday's return leg.
Troyes 1, Lorient 1