Lyon claim 7th French title in a row

May 17, 2008

PARIS, May 17 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon wrapped up a record seventh consecutive Ligue 1 title with a convincing 3-1 win at AJ Auxerre on Saturday.

Lyon ended the season with 79 points, four ahead of second-placed Girondins Bordeaux, who had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Racing Lens that sent the northerners down to Ligue 2.

No other team from a major European league have won six straight titles, let alone seven.

Lyon will bid for a first domestic double in next Saturday's French Cup final against Paris St Germain, who escaped being relegated for the first time since they were promoted to the top-flight in 1974 with a 2-1 win at Sochaux.

'We are very, very happy and proud. It was the club's objective,' Lyon forward Hatem Ben Arfa told French TV station Canal Plus.

Brazilian midfielder Juninho added: 'It's a nice title. We made the difference in our two matches against Bordeaux, which we won.'

In a nail-biting end to the season, two goals from Djibril Cisse gave Olympique Marseille third place with a 4-3 comeback victory over Racing Strasbourg.

The win meant Marseille will play in the third qualifying round for next season's Champions League.

Nancy, who slumped to a 3-2 home defeat by Stade Rennes finished fourth and will play in the UEFA Cup.

They will be joined in the competition by St Etienne, who took fifth place courtesy of a 4-0 thrashing of Monaco.

St Etienne, France's top side in the late 1970s and early 1980s, will be back in Europe for the first time since 1982.

Lyon made the most of the opening stages of their game at Auxerre, with France striker Karim Benzema putting the visitors ahead after just 24 seconds.

The goal took Benzema's tally to 20 as he finished the season as Ligue 1's top scorer.

Brazilian striker Fred doubled Lyon's advantage in the 10th minute and Kim Kallstrom headed their third, eight minutes into the second half.

While Lyon fans were celebrating in Auxerre, dejected Lens supporters invaded the pitch at the Felix-Bollaert stadium after their side were relegated 10 years after clinching their only league title.

Lens had not left the top flight since promotion in 1991.

'We did not lose our place (in Ligue 1) tonight but in other matches against less fancied teams,' said Lens midfielder Eric Carriere.

'It's hard to accept. We can have a lot of regrets.'

Lens will join already-relegated Racing Strasbourg and Metz in Ligue 2, whose promoted clubs to the top-flight are Le Havre, Nantes and Grenoble.

Paris St Germain coach Paul Le Guen, whose side won this season's French League Cup, said: 'We are not going for a lap of honour, we just saved our place in Ligue 1. We now may clinch two titles at the end of an awkward season.