Fear then liberation: long abused, Lens took a big step towards the Champions League after dominating Reims (2-1), Friday May 12, at the start of the 35th day of Ligue 1. With 75 points, the Sang and gold thus have a five-point lead over Marseille, which receives Angers on Sunday evening. And Lens has, moreover, still not said goodbye to the title, since Paris Saint-Germain, leader, only points to three points before receiving Ajaccio on Saturday.
At the end of the season, the Lensois have the advantage of knowing that they are masters of their destiny, they who are ured if they win all their matches of finishing in second place, synonymous with direct qualification for the Champions League. They are, on the other hand, fully aware of the threat that would hover over them at the slightest misstep, since Marseille would have had the opportunity, in the event of success in Reims at Bollaert, to regain the place of runner-up to Paris SG.
This hypothesis probably did not disturb the Lensois at the start of the match. They were more enterprising in the first minutes, like a strike from Loïs Openda stopped in two stages by Yehvann Diouf (4e) then from a dangerous cross that the Reims goalkeeper had to leave to relieve his defense (11e).
Outnumbered, Haise stays the course
Far from being disunited, the Champenois gently lifted their heads above water and in turn knew how to be dangerous through Jens Cadjuste, whose strike was however too soft to worry Samba (16e).
Showered by the intense rain that had been falling on the stadium since the start of the match, the Lensois were also affected by the foul whistled against Kevin Danso, guilty of a push on Marshall Munetsi in the area (19e). The referee did not hesitate either by designating the penalty spot or by sanctioning the Austrian international with a red card. Despite the deafening whistles of the Bollaert public and the good anticipation of Brice Samba, who started on the right side, Folarin Balogun converted this penalty with a shot adjusted close to the right post (0-1, 23e).
Although reduced to ten, the Lensois coach, Franck Haise, decided not to change anything. A choice which allowed Lens to continue to move forward, but which also exposed them to attacks from Reims. Junya Ito (34)e) then Alexis Flips (36e) had their chance but both shot wide of the nets.
Captain Fofana still decisive
As half-time loomed, Lens in turn got a penalty when Adrien Thomon collapsed in the area, pushed by Emmanuel Agbadou (38e). Irreproachable in this exercise this season, Przemyslaw Frankowski transformed it with a powerful shot from the center (1-1, 40e) to return to a draw just before the break.
When they returned from the locker room, the Lensois had momentum again, but Openda lacked sharpness twice (46e50e). As against Marseille last weekend, the deliverance came from the Blood and Gold captain, Seko Fofana. The Ivorian international recovered the ball 25 meters from the Reims goal and got rid of two Reims defenders before adjusting Yehvann Diouf with a cross shot (2-1, 55e).
Deprived of part of its ultras suspended for a match after fireworks and smoke bombs against Monaco, the Bollaert stadium shook when Balogun collapsed in the area after a duel against Samba (73e). But the French goalkeeper had not touched the Reims striker, who received a yellow card for simulation, after checking the VAR. In the end, Lens grabbed a sixteenth success at Bollaert this season in eighteen games (one draw and one defeat).
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“I don’t really know if we realize what we’re doing, because it’s an exceptional season, no one was expecting us here”, surprised Lensois striker Florian Sotoca. The artesian club is indeed only three games away – against Lorient, Ajaccio and Auxerre – from a second place which would be a resounding achievement, three years after its rise in Ligue 1.
The World with AFP