By Chris Burke
An added-time goal from Bonaventure Kalou gave AJ Auxerre their fourth French Cup triumph in eleven years as they triumphed 2-1 against second division CS Sedan-Ardennes.
For a long time Mickaël Citony's thunderous strike had looked like being enough to earn lowly Sedan 30 minutes of extra time following Benjani Mwaruwari's opener for Auxerre, but 24 hours after representing the Ivory Coast in Libya, substitute Kalou swept in Kanga Akalé's cross to spark euphoric scenes among the Auxerre fans packed into the Stade de France.
It was a thrilling end to a fiercely-contested final in which Sedan played their full part. Hit by the last-minute withdrawal of defender Hamada Jambay through injury, the lower-league side nevertheless began brightly, pressing their rivals high up the pitch and having the first glimpse of goal when Stéphane Noro's free-kick dipped just over the bar after three minutes.
It took the Ligue 1 club a good twenty minutes to take the upper hand, and Kanga Akalé signalled their intentions when he fired just wide before Benjani forced Sedan goalkeeper Patrick Regnault into a smart save. Benjani then rattled a post with a header just past the half-hour before Mickaël Citony saw his long-range shot parried by Ulrich Ramé at the other end.
But Benjani refused to be upstaged and when Benoït Cheyrou's mis-hit free-kick fell at his feet with 37 minutes gone, he bamboozled the Sedan defence before stabbing in the opening goal. Auxerre captain Yann Lachuer nearly added a second at the end of the first half, only for Nadir Belhadj's superb last-gasp tackle to keep Serge Romano's charges in the game at the break.
Guy Roux's players, who won this competition in 2003, came out focused on defending their lead after the interval, but just as they began to look comfortable, Noro unleashed a stunning 25-metre effort to haul Sedan level. Roux responded by introducing Kalou and the 27-year-old showed no signs of fatigue. After Benjani spurned a gilt-edged chance, Kalou turned in the dramatic winner at full stretch seconds before the final whistle, earning his side a UEFA Cup berth.
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