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TOULOUSE : Brest’s French defender #03 Lilian Brassier ( R ) runs with the ball during the French L1 football match between Toulouse (TFC) and Stade Brestois 29 (Brest) at the Stadium TFC in Toulouse, south-western France. – AFP
TOULOUSE : Brest’s French defender #03 Lilian Brassier ( R ) runs with the ball during the French L1 football match between Toulouse (TFC) and Stade Brestois 29 (Brest) at the Stadium TFC in Toulouse, south-western France. – AFP

Brest secure CL qualification, PSG win without Mbappe

Mbappe expected to play his last game for PSG against Lyon

PARIS: Brest belied their status as one of the smallest clubs in France’s top flight as they secured Champions League qualification for the first time in their history on Sunday, while Paris Saint-Germain completed their Ligue 1 campaign by beating Metz 2-0 without Kylian Mbappe.

Modest Brittany outfit Brest began the day in fourth place, behind Lille on goal difference, with the top three in Ligue 1 going straight into next season’s expanded 36-team Champions League and the side in fourth entering in the preliminary rounds.

Brest duly did their bit by easing to a 3-0 victory away at Toulouse thanks to second-half goals by Mahdi Camara, Jordan Amavi and Kenny Lala. They then needed a favour in Lille, and got one as the home side conceded late to draw 2-2 with Nice.

Lille had trailed to an early Gaetan Laborde goal, but looked set to get the victory they required when Hakon Haraldsson and Benjamin Andre scored after the break to turn the game around. However, Jordan Lotomba’s injury-time strike earned a point for Nice, who were already guaranteed to finish fifth and will be in the Europa League next season.

Lille, who reached the Champions League last 16 in 2022, will now have to come through two qualifying rounds to get into the league stage of Europe’s elite club competition. Brest had never previously finished above eighth in the top flight and so will be playing in Europe for the very first time next season.

It is expected that Eric Roy’s team will have to play home games in the Champions League at a neutral venue as their own Stade Francis-Le Ble does not meet UEFA requirements. “It is difficult to describe the emotion. Even as a player I never experienced emotions like it,” said Roy, a former Marseille and Sunderland midfielder.

“It is why we love football. I had already congratulated the lads for being guaranteed a top-four place but there was one more stage to conquer. “We thoroughly deserve it after the season we have had.” France captain Mbappe was left out of PSG’s squad as the champions won away at struggling Metz.

Mbappe, who will leave PSG at the end of the campaign after seven years, had already missed his team’s 2-1 victory at Nice in midweek due to a hamstring niggle. He did not travel with the team to Metz and was one of several first-team regulars who were rested by coach Luis Enrique, whose side had already wrapped up the title.

Ousmane Dembele, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Marquinhos and Vitinha also played no part but PSG still claimed the victory thanks to early goals by Carlos Soler and Lee Kang-in. Mbappe is still expected to play his last game for PSG in next week’s French Cup final against Lyon, before a likely move to Real Madrid for next season.

Lyon qualify for Europe

Despite their defeat, Metz could still stay up. They end the season in the relegation play-off place, finishing above Lorient because they scored more away goals in meetings between the two clubs. Lorient’s 5-0 win over Clermont meant they ended level with Metz on points and goal difference, but the Brittany club go straight down to Ligue 2 with Clermont, while Metz will get a second chance to survive in a play-off against a side from the second tier.

Elsewhere, Lyon completed an astonishing turnaround in their fortunes as Alexandre Lacazette’s stoppage-time penalty secured a 2-1 win over Strasbourg that saw them snatch European qualification. Lyon had been rock bottom in early December and looked favourites for relegation, but their revival under new coach Pierre Sage has been stunning.

They made it 15 wins in their last 20 league games with Lacazette getting the decisive goal after his opener had been cancelled out by Habib Diarra. Lyon finish sixth, pipping Lens after they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Montpellier.

Sage’s team are therefore certain to play in the Europa League next season, before going into the French Cup final against PSG next weekend, while Lens finish seventh and will be in the Conference League. In other games, runners-up Monaco crushed Nantes 4-0, while Marseille missed out on a European place despite a 2-1 win at Le Havre, and Reims defeated Rennes 2-1. — AFP

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