Lille raid capital again to secure surprise league and cup double
Monday 23 May 2011
The supporters of LOSC Lille Métropole are growing to love Paris in the springtime. The northernmost club in France's First Division won the French Cup at the Stade de France nine days ago, beating Paris St-Germain 1-0 in the final to land their first major trophy for 56 years. On Saturday night, one week later, Rudi Garcia's team secured a 2-2 draw across the city at the Parc des Princes against the same opponents to secure their first league title since 1954.
It has been a wonderful season for a club with limited resources and, for the moment, without a permanent home. Ever since leaving the Stade Grimonprez-Jooris seven years ago, Les Dogues ("the mastiffs") have played at the 18,000-capacity Stadium Lille Métropole, where an athletics track makes it hard to generate any atmosphere.
In a year's time they will move to a 50,000-capacity arena, which is under construction to the south of the city. Continuity – Lille have had only two head coaches in the last nine years – and intelligent recruitment of players have been the key to the club's steady rise. Over that period they have failed to qualify for Europe only three times. They went into the penultimate round of matches with a six-point lead over Marseilles, the defending champions. They have led the table for most of the season and have drawn many admirers with an exciting brand of attacking football.
The draw at the Parc des Princes was secured by goals from Ludovic Obraniak, who also hit the winner in the French Cup final, and Moussa Sow, the league's top scorer with 22 goals. The players celebrated their first league and cup double since 1946 on the pitch before breaking open the champagne in their dressing room. Back in Lille thousands of supporters celebrated in the city's main square.
"When my players will meet again in 15 or 20 years, they will have incredible memories together," Garcia said. "They're a fantastic squad and someone has to tell them, because they don't realise what they just did."
Most of the Lille squad have been together for several years, but the club could have trouble hanging on to their best players this summer. Adil Rami, who has become a mainstay of the France defence, is heading for Valencia for a fee of €5m (£4.4m), while the Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard and the Ivory Coast striker Gervinho have both attracted interest from the Premier League.
Hazard, who is said to interest Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool, recently signed a contract until 2015, but Gervinho's deal runs out next year. He has so far declined offers to extend it and is said to be a target for Manchester City.
Lille's main shareholder is the film producer Michel Seydoux, who has transformed the club's fortunes without massive investment. The club spent €20m (£17.4m) on a new training ground and will move next year into the state-of-the art Grand Stade Lille Métropole. Didier Deschamps, the Marseilles coach, paid credit to his rivals. "Hats off to them," he said.
Barca prepare with win as Ronaldo breaks record
Ahead of the Champions League final next weekend, a weakened Barcelona team closed out the domestic season with a 3-1 victory away at Malaga.
Seba Fernandez had put Malaga ahead before Bojan Krkic won and scored a penalty. A fine solo goal from Ibrahim Afellay and a header from Marc Bartra sealed the win.
Cristiano Ronaldo broke La Liga's scoring record for a single season after two goals – his 39th and 40th of the campaign – helped Real Madrid to a 8-1 win over already relegated Almeria. "To score so many goals in a season is very hard. I have to thank my team-mates," Ronaldo said. "The record is for them and the fans too."
Emmanuel Adebayor also scored a hat-trick and Jerzy Dudek received a standing ovation in his last appearance before retirement.
Schalke won the German Cup final with a 5-0 win over second division Duisburg. The victory means they will play in the Europa League next season. Three first-half assists from Jefferson Farfan enabled Julian Draxler, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Benedikt Höwedes to score and effectively end the contest.
Yesterday Deportivo la Coruna were relegated fromLa Liga, a 2-0 defeat at home to Valencia ending a 20-year stay in the top flight. In Italy, Udinese sealed a Champions League place as a nervy 0-0 draw against champions Milan proved enough to secure fourth spot in Serie A.
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