CAEN // Bordeaux won the French league title for the first time since 1999 after beating Caen 1-0 away on Saturday - an 11th consecutive win for Laurent Blanc's team - to finish three points ahead of Marseille, 4-0 victors over Rennes. Blanc was quick to deflect the praise away from himself, despite having guided Bordeaux to the title in only his second year as coach. The team finished runners-up to Lyon last year.
"When you are lucky enough to be champion, you have to share it with everyone," Blanc said. "I'll have time afterward to savour it myself. But tonight and tomorrow I want to share it with all the staff. They have done a great job over the last two years." Bordeaux's extraordinary late run of form, which included a League Cup title and 12 consecutive wins overall, proved too much for Marseille, who surrendered their lead with two games to go. Defending champions Lyon, who had won the last seven league titles, also fell by the wayside and ended in third position.
Blanc said that not being the favourites for the title helped keep the pressure off his team. "For a while everyone thought Lyon would win, me included, but then they slipped up. Then it was Marseille's turn," Blanc said. "The pressure only came on us at the end, while the others had it all along. I think that was something in our favour. We turned some games round in the last minutes. This shows the players have exceptional mental strength."
It was Bordeaux's sixth league title, and the last in 1999 was also secured on the final day. "Now, when you see that despite winning 11 matches in a row we needed to wait until the last match to be crowned, it also means that another team [Marseille] went on a championship-winning run," Blanc added. Les Girondins only needed a point on the night, but Yoan Gouffran, a former Caen player, scored the only goal to earn three points, and also send their opponents down.
Blanc pinpointed his side's 1-0 home win over Lyon on April 19 as the moment he knew the title was on, and was delighted his team were able to go all the way after missing out to Les Gones on the last day of last term. "Last year, we did very well throughout the whole season but I had said to my players at the end that people would only remember Lyon being crowned champions," he said. "We had to learn from that, know how to better understand the big matches.
"We took a calculated risk in doing more physical preparation in January. When you analyse our results in the 11 last rounds of fixtures, I say to myself we were right to do that. We finished the season very strongly." Caen could have stayed up with a victory but in the end they were leapfrogged by St Etienne, who beat Valenciennes 4-0. "There's a lot of sadness tonight. We couldn't rise to the challenge," Caen captain Nicolas Seube said. "It's a huge waste as there is a lot of talent in this team. But if we have 37 points it means mistakes were made."
After the game, it emerged that Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh looks set to remain with the club next season. The Morocco international claimed a fortnight ago that he would quit Les Girondins in the summer if they won the league, but appeared to have made a U-turn. "Normally, I stay at Bordeaux. After that depends on the president." said the 25-year-old forward, who has been linked with a move to English side Tottenham. Club president Jean-Louis Triaud was optimistic Chamakh will stay put.
"The case of Chamakh is very special. He is a boy who has developed strong emotional ties with the club over a very long time," he told www.lequipe.fr. "We will try to convince him to stay, by demonstrating that he plays in a favourable environment and if he is happy, he's happy every day. I'm not sure he would find the same thing in another country. I think it is likely he will be seen in the navy and white next year. At 25 years old, he still has time to leave. It is almost fatherly advice, but it would be better for him to stay with us."