Lille beats PSG to win French Cup
Ludovic Obraniak scored with a last-minute free kick as Lille beat holder Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 to win the French Cup for the sixth time, ending a 56-year trophy drought and taking the first step toward a domestic double.
Obraniak, who came on as a second-half substitute, took the free kick way out near the right touchline in the last minute of regulation time and PSG goalkeeper Gregory Coupet made a terrible error as he watched the ball sail over his head and into the left corner.
Coupet saved Mathieu Debuchy's penalty a minute later, but French league leader Lille held on to win its first trophy since 1955, when it also won the French Cup.
''It's an indescribable joy to win the French Cup,'' Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. ''For the people of Lille it's a great moment, 56 years was starting to become a long time. So we're delighted.''
Ahead of Sunday's French league games, Lille was four points ahead of second-place Marseille with only three matches remaining. Lille did the double in the 1945-46 season, and won its only other league title in the '53-54 campaign.
Lille resumes its title campaign at home to Sochaux on Wednesday.
''Luckily we didn't go to extra time, which is a good thing for us,'' Garcia said. ''We will do everything we can to do the double. Our match against Sochaux is very important, and if we win it we won't be too far away from the title.''
PSG won the French Cup for the eighth time last year and, before Coupet's error, had looked the stronger team, with Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau making several fine stops.
''It was a scrappy match in the first half, we knew it would be hard against PSG,'' Garcia said. ''After about an hour we were starting to struggle, luckily Mika (Landreau) made a couple of saves for us.''
Siaka Tiene gave away the free kick, but the veteran Coupet - formerly France's No. 1 - signaled there was no danger as the bail sailed in the air. But Obraniak's dipping shot then dropped into the net, leaving Coupet and his defenders stunned.
''I told the players the match could be decided by a freekick. Luckily Ludo(vic) showed us his left foot just in time,'' Garcia said of a midfielder who was born in France and represented the country at under-21 level, but now plays international football for Poland.
''We had to stand up to (PSG) physically, and we did that,'' Garcia added.
PSG coach Antoine Kombouare refused to blame Coupet for the defeat.
''I don't know, maybe it was a weird trajectory. From where I was I had the feeling it was going over. Then it dipped a lot, and at the end the ball nestled in the top corner, and I think it was off the post and in. Did he mean to score or was he trying to find a teammate?''
There was still time for Coupet to bring down Gervinho as he sprinted through in stoppage time, but the keeper did well to read Debuchy's penalty and kick it away.
It was too late to spark a comeback, though.
Early in the match, PSG winger Ludovic Giuly burst down the right and was hacked down before he could get a cross in, and after Nene failed to make the most of the free kick, Lille launched its first attack.
Ivory Coast winger Gervinho gathered the ball from the halfway line and sprinted clear and, with Eden Hazard perfectly placed to receive the ball on the edge of the penalty area, only a great block from Tiene prevented a scoring chance.
Nene had PGS's first clear chance of the match when his swerving free kick was kicked away by Landreau in the 18th.
Lille striker Moussa Sow, the French league's top scorer with 21 goals, was well marked and had to wait until midway through the first half to find any space, but his speculative shot from around 25 yards (meters) flew over the crossbar.
PSG had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Clement Turpin late in the first half after striker Guillaume Hoarau appeared to fall under a challenge.
Hoarau started in a lone striker's role, with midfielder Mathieu Bodmer pushing up to support, and with Turkey striker Mevlut Erding left on the bench by coach Antoine Kombouare.
While Lille had edged the first half, PSG started strongly after the break.
Idrissa Gueye was shown a yellow card for taking Nene's legs away as he sprinted toward the penalty area early in the second half, and Hoarau's curling shot forced Landreau to scoop the ball away low to his left.
Garcia had seen enough of his team defending and finally opted for a more attacking approach, replacing Gueye with Brazilian striker Tulio De Melo after an hour of an increasingly tense match.
Kombouare made a similar move soon after, bringing on Erding to partner Hoarau up front.
Hoarau should have scored when Erding wriggled free and served him up a perfect pass across goal, but Hoarau just failed to connect as he tried to sidefoot the ball in.
Summing up, Kombouare said: ''We had two really good chances, especially Guillaume Hoarau's chance. You have to take your chances in this kind of match. We didn't do that, and Lille scored at the worst time possible for us.''
Landreau made another fine save to tip midfielder Clement Chantome's drive round the post with 15 minutes left.
PSG is one point behind third-place Lyon in the race for a Champions League place and is away at Bordeaux on Wednesday.
''What we must do now is lift our heads right away, we have three important league games awaiting us,'' PSG coach Antoine Kombouare said. ''As I told the players before they took their showers, the only consolation from losing this final is that we can still go and qualify for the Champions League.''