PARIS (AFP) - Nantes, who had played 44 consecutive seasons in the French first division, were relegated on Wednesday night even though they won 1-0 at Bordeaux.
Nice's 1-0 victory at home to Paris Saint Germain and Valenciennes' win by the same scoreline against St Etienne meant basement club Nantes, who were the last team to win the first division title since the run of reigning six-times champions Lyon, mathematically had to go down.
Dennis Oliech scored in the 78th minute for Nantes but it was not enough to stop the eight-times champions falling into the second tier to cause a shock to the French footballing establishment. Nantes keeper Tony Heurtebis had even saved a penalty from Alejandro Alonso in the 17th minute.
Nantes' relegation comes after a chaotic season which saw them use four coaches, continually change line-ups and put in less than average displays in the tactical department.
Max Bossis, a three-time French league champion with Nantes during the 70s and early 80s, said: "My first reaction is extreme sadness, but I also get the feeling of a big waste in sporting and human terms. I remember all the great times, the titles, the exceptional moments we shared while playing with this jersey."
Sedan, who lost 2-1 to Lille, were relegated with Nantes but they are more accustomed to yo-yoing between the elite clubs and the second division.
At the other end of the table, already-crowned champions Lyon showed no pity on second-placed Lens, thrashing them 3-0 with first half goals through Sidney Govou, Juninho Pernambucano and Alou Diarra.
That meant Marseille, who beat Nancy 2-1 with goals from Djibril Cisse and Mamadou Niang, took second place on their own which would be enough to take one of the two automatic qualifying berths into the group stages of the Champions League.
Marseille coach Albert Emon said afterwards: "We suffered tonight but we won. Nancy have made it difficult for many teams this season so it was not a surprise they did the same to us tonight. This was an important victory for us."
Meanwhile Sochaux coach Jean-Claude Plessis had stern words for Marseille on the run-up to Saturday's French Cup final between the clubs, saying they had made an unauthorised approach to midfielder Karim Ziani.
"I don't know if they are trying to destabilise us but I do not appreciate these methods before playing the French Cup final," said Plessis.
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