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France round-up: Lyon retain title

Published: Wednesday 21 May 2003, 0.36CET
Olympique Lyonnais are champions for the second year running despite being held by Montpellier Hérault SC.

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Published: Wednesday 21 May 2003, 0.36CET

France round-up: Lyon retain title

Olympique Lyonnais are champions for the second year running despite being held by Montpellier Hérault SC.
Olympique Lyonnais sealed the French title for the second year running on Tuesday night despite behind held 1-1 at Montpellier Hérault SC.

Goals the difference
The defending champions have 68 points, three more than Olympique de Marseille with one game to play, and have a vastly superior goal difference. Marseille need to win by a 20-goal margin at FC Nantes Atlantique at the weekend to steal their crown.

'We're champions'
"Don’t talk about that. We're champions," said Lyon coach Paul Le Guen after his side's game. "It will be a marvellous celebration next Saturday in the Gerland. The competition was hard all year long with Marseille and [AS] Monaco [FC]." Monaco saw their hopes evaporate as they lost 3-1 at En Avant Guingamp.

Juninho strike
Brazilian midfield player Juninho Pernambucano scored the goal which effectively secured the championship for Lyon, equalising Habib Bamogo's early strike to earn his side an all-important point at Montpellier.

Coach's pride
Le Guen also told television station CanalPlus: "We can be proud of ourselves. We had a strong finish to the season, we played well in the last few matches and we've been very consistent all season. We have a good group of players and I really want to congratulate them because they showed great tenacity and strength of character. It's a deserved reward for players who had a clear objective and did everything to get there. It was the whole town and the whole club who were chasing it and it's great to have achieved it."

'We've come a long way'
Ironically, Le Guen was close to stepping down as coach last autumn when Lyon were struggling in mid-table and had been eliminated from the UEFA Champions League in the first group stage. "We've come a long way," said playmaker Vikash Dhorasoo.

'We deserve this crown'
"Humility and work were the key," added defender Jérémie Bréchet, a Lyon native. "Lyon are a team which always play to win," said goalscorer Juninho. "It's the reason why we deserve this crown."

Thousands gather
After accepting the acclaim of their travelling fans on the pitch, the squad returned to Lyon and gathered on the balcony of the City Hall in front of thousands of fans who had watched the game on a big screen. "Lyon never knew such a success since the club was created," said mayor Gérard Collomb.

Southern rivals
Meanwhile, with Monaco going down to goals from Stéphane Carnot (2) and Florent Malouda at Guingamp, Marseille leapfrogged their southern rivals to go into second place. Alain Perrin's men came from behind twice to beat CS Sedan-Ardennes 4-2 at the Vélodrome where Sébastien Perez, Cyril Chapuis, Brahim Hemdani and Lamine Sakho were all on target for the home side.

Champions League
Nevertheless, draws for both FC Girondins de Bordeaux and FC Sochaux-Montbéliard mean that Monaco are more or less assured of a place in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round at least. Whether it is Monaco or Marseille who book the second automatic berth in next season's Champions League group stage will be determined on Saturday, when relegated ES Troyes Aube Champagne visit Monaco while Marseille are at Nantes.

Relegation worries
Elsewhere in Tuesday's First Division programme, Stade Rennais FC moved a point clear of the relegation places after a 0-0 draw at Paris Saint-Germain FC. Already doomed Troyes beat Nantes 2-0, but the two other clubs in the bottom three lost. Sedan fell at Marseille while Le Havre AC went down 3-1 at home against RC Lens.

Last updated: 21/05/03 16.59CET

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