Stade Rennais’ shock comeback Coupe des France victory over PSG last weekend was not only a jolt for the French Champions, it also put a spanner in the works of Ambroise Oyongo’s hopes of adding Europa Cup football to his international club football portfolio.
The former Impact full-back has already appeared in the continental Champions Leagues of Africa and North & Central America, but PSG’s spectacular collapse after being two goals in front (we’ve seen this before) , now means the 5th team in Ligue 1, currently Oyongo’s Montpellier will not qualify for Europa League next season.
Stade Rennais, of course will take France’s 6th European place as national Cup winners and Strasbourg had already claimed the 5th spot, by winning the Coupe de la Ligue earlier in the season. Had PSG prevailed in the Cup, with their place in the Champions League already secured, then the 5th place team in the table would have been a Europa League inclusion for 2019/20.
Oyongo’s hopes reside with his Montpellier team producing a storming finish to the season, with 4 games left to play. They must finish 4th, the spot currently occupied by St-Etienne. The gap between Les Verts and Montpellier, level also with Olympique Marseille, is 5 points.
Montpellier have earned this possibility, by themselves coming from behind to defeat free-wheeling, champions PSG on Tuesday night. A feather in Oyongo’s cap, since it’s the first time he’s enjoyed a win over the team from the capital, but it looked like it was all heading south, when he put through his own goal to open the scoring.
The Cameroonian international went on to play the full game however, which was decided by Souleymane Camara’s 85th minute winner.
St-Etienne should really retain the all-important 4th spot, but the key game looks set to be next Friday (May, 10) when they host Montpellier in the Loire Valley. While a draw will probably do for ASSE, Montpellier must win. And should they do so, another stiff hurdle will come in the final match, away to Marseille, still in contention themselves.
While Marseille’s form has tapered off, they’ve won only 2 of their last 6, and despite Montpellier having just won their third in a row, St-Etienne look to be the most solid, unbeaten in their last six, five of which they’ve won.
Oyongo realizes it’s going to be difficult, but not impossible.
“We need to try win each of our last four matches, and hope St-Etienne do not collect any more than 6 points from their’s. While the Cup Final result is disappointing to our hopes, we must try to continue to win, until we achieve qualification, or the opportunity is gone.”
Whether European qualification comes or not for one of the best players ever to represent the Impact, 2018/19 will be remembered as the year he truly made his breakthrough in Ligue 1. After only three League appearances in his first season, he’s amassed 22 (21 starts) this time around, and hit the net twice, both times in September: in the 3-0 home victory over Nimes, and in scoring the only goal, enabling Montpellier to win at Reims.