By Eskender Tamrat
When: 3:00PM EST, Sunday, May 28th, 2017
Where: Stade du Moustoir, Lorient, France
Betting Line: OFF
TV Coverage: beIN Sports
The last club to book their place in next season's Ligue 1 season will be decided on Sunday, as FC Lorient (10-6-23) will host Troyes AC (19-9-10). The two teams locked horns on Thursday in the first leg and it was the Ligue 2 side who prevailed thanks to an injury-time strike from 40-years-old striker Benjamin Nivet. Stéphane Darbion, another veteran of the game at the age of 33, gave Troyes the lead seven minutes from the break.
Lorient recovered in the second-half and rewarded for their efforts when Abdul Majeed Waris scored his tenth goal of the season with the assist provided by Benjamin Moukandjo. When Lorient seemed to take a draw courtesy of their two exciting attackers, Troyes sealed a narrow win with Nivet, who is also instrumental in the first goal, scoring a brilliant goal.
At times, Troyes seemed out of depth in the first leg of the relegation/promotion playoff. Lorient didn't seem to take the initiative in the first-half but Troyes couldn't create openings at the other end, either. The team had a terrible campaign in the 2015-16 Ligue 1 season – winning only three matches for a total point of 18, almost two times fewer than fellow relegated side Gazélec Ajaccio.
However, they nearly secured an automatic promotion in their first season back in Ligue 2 before Amiens SC (19-9-10) climbed to the top of the standings with a last-gasp goal in their fixture, producing a very dramatic ending. With the league's top scorer Adama Niane, who joined the club from FC Nantes (14-9-15) reserve team, Troyes hit the jackpot in the transfer market, while Nivet, who found the net seven times in the league, continues to marvel with his form. Their squad – more so in the attacking department – is made of late bloomers and aging players, as they hope to try their luck once again in the top-flight football.
Bernard Casoni's side seemed to distance themselves when they thrashed FC Metz (11-10-17) 5-1 with four matches left to play in the season. After spending more than half of the season in the bottom place, four wins in five matches steered the club from the drop zone, as they climbed to sixteenth place. But it didn’t last long. The club only picked up two points from the final four matches of the league season and slipped back to the bottom three when Stade Malherbe Caen (10-7-21) netted a late equalizer at Paris Saint-Germain (27-6-5).
Lorient's 1-1 draw against FC Girondins de Bordeaux (15-14-9), who were playing to book a European place, was not enough at the end to seal a direct safety. That said, a defeat in the final league game of the season would have dropped them to the automatic relegation spots at the expense of AS Nancy (9-8-21) with a mere three goal difference.
1. With 22 defeats from the 38 rounds, Lorient lost the most matches in Ligue 1 this season.
2. If French football has a similar rule with Italy in a tiebreaker – head-to-head record ahead of goal difference – Troyes would have been sealed an automatic promotion to Ligue 1 ahead of Amiens after both teams finished the season with 66 points. Unlucky.
3. Troyes collected twelve points from their last four league games before snatching a late win against Lorient, who only grabbed two points in Ligue 1 in that span.
Although it's a tired cliché, the first goal would be massive in this one, with Troyes targeting to nullify the away-goal rule and Lorient to turn the tables early in the game. From the quality of the two sides and the first leg showing, Lorient will still be the favorites on Sunday. Even with the momentum on their side, it’s hard to see Troyes beating Lorient, a visibly better team, twice in a row here. Lorient is safe to return to Ligue 1 next season.
Lorient 2, Troyes 0