Depay treble sees Lyon beat Nice and pip Marseille to Champions League spot
Memphis Depay struck a wonderful hat-trick as Lyon fought back to beat Nice 3-2 at the Groupama Stadium on Saturday to qualify for the Champions League from Ligue 1 at the expense of Marseille.
Monaco saw off relegated Troyes 3-0 to wrap up second spot behind champions Paris Saint-Germain, as Bruno Genesio's Lyon finished one point clear of Marseille in third after a dramatic final day of the season.
It capped a miserable week for beaten Europa League finalists Marseille, who will have to make do with a return to Europe's second-tier competition despite beating Amiens 2-1.
Marseille's defeat to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday in Lyon had ensured that the third-placed finishers in Ligue 1 would join the top two in the group stage of Europe's premier competition, rather than face the qualifying rounds.
Lyon were the first of the three sides in contention to slip up, as Alassane Plea raced clean through on goal and fired through the legs of home goalkeeper Anthony Lopes to put Nice ahead.
The hosts became increasingly frustrated, with Nabil Fekir twice tumbling to the floor in vain attempts to win a penalty.
Lyon desperately needed a quick leveller after half-time and Depay provided just that.
Fekir did excellently to twist into space and square for Depay to tap home.
Mario Balotelli should have put Nice back in front, but miskicked over after Plea's deflected shot fell to him unmarked and only 12 yards from goal.
Depay has arguably been the best player in France during the latter stages of the season, and the Dutchman produced the moment of magic needed to send Lyon into the Champions League.
The former Manchester United flop showed magnificent creativity and execution to roll a free-kick under the wall and into the bottom corner to score his 18th goal of the campaign and his ninth in as many games.
Depay completed a sublime treble late on by dinking the ball over away goalkeeper Walter Benitez, and although Plea fired home from long range in the 89th minute, Lyon held on as Nice missed on a Europa League spot.
- Marseille victory in vain -
Marseille struck first in the race for the Champions League against Amiens at the Stade Velodrome, as teenager Boubacar Kamara's clever pass picked out Morgan Sanson who slammed a fierce shot into the roof of the net to give Rudi Garcia's men an 11th-minute lead against Troyes.
Just seconds after Lyon fell behind at the Groupama Stadium, things got even better for Garcia's team as Kostas Mitroglou reacted quickest after Lucas Ocampos' header was saved to stab in the ninth goal of his first Ligue 1 season.
But Amiens hit back to give Lyon a boost, as Moussa Konate took advantage of some terrible home defending to halve the deficit before half-time.
Hopes of a comeback were dashed, though, as visiting midfielder Thomas Monconduit was rightly sent off for a horrendous challenge as he slammed his studs into the planted leg of Ocampos, who was lucky not to escape serious injury.
Marseille saw out the win, but the three points provided little joy as results elsewhere meant they wasted two chances to return to Europe's top table in just four days.
Monaco knew that they would be assured of a Champions League place if they avoided defeat and a double from Rony Lopes and Jordi Mboula's late strike saw them relegate Troyes with a comfortable win.
Lopes brushed off the disappointment of missing out on Portugal's World Cup squad by taking his tally of league goals this season to 15 in an excellent display.
That result sent Troyes down to the second tier with already-relegated Metz, as Toulouse secured a playoff with a 2-1 victory over Guingamp.
Elsewhere, Caen held champions Paris Saint-Germain to a goalless draw to secure safety, while Bordeaux thrashed Metz 4-0 to join Marseille and Rennes in the Europa League.
© 2018 AFP