[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter what was undoubtedly their best ever European result, beating Dynamo Kyiv 2-1 in the home leg, Guingamp went out of the Europa League 3-4 on aggregate after a 3-1 away defeat. However, motivated by their European adventure they are on course to not only retain their own domestic cup but also their Ligue I status.
The Breton club made fairy-tale progress last season in winning the French Cup to qualify for the Europa League, but in the early part of this campaign – only their eighth ever in the top flight – they were involved in a real fight to beat relegation. Guingamp’s league form was so poor, that for each of the first four months of the season they managed just one league win.
European football was obviously a distraction to Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side despite some notable victories which carried them through to the Round of 32 and their epic clash with Kyiv.
The turning point for Guingamp, certainly as far as domestic competition was concerned, came in December with an astonishing victory over the giants of PSG. The 1-0 win, courtesy of a Jérémy Pied diving header as early as the 11th minute, was one of three league wins by the same margin, Indeed Guingamp won four and drew the other game in that month and they carried their improved league form into January and followed up a 1-1 draw at Bordeaux by beating Monaco, 1-0.
In the Quarter Finals of the French Cup Guingamp were almost dumped out of the competition when they faced near neighbours US Concarneau. The derby cup tie had to be switched just 90 minutes down the road to Guingamp because Concarneau’s ground was considered unsuitable.
Playing in the fourth tier of French football – the French amateur championship – Concarneau were undaunted by facing the cup holders in front of a near sell-out Lorient crowd, even when they went behind to a third minute goal from Christophe Mandanne. Midway through the first half, the amateurs equalised when Christophe Gourmelon toe-poked the ball through a crowded box.
Although Concarneau created enough chances to pull off a famous victory, the gulf in class and status finally told when Claudio Beauvue hit a sensational free-kick winner in stoppage time. For the club based in Finistère, the end of the earth, it was the end of their cup run and it left Guingamp just one step away from the final.
The semi-final draw was kind to the holders, as PSG were drawn to face Saint-Étienne, while Guingamp are to play second tier Auxerre.
Before the Semi Final however there are vital league games to play for the inconsistent Breton outfit to retain their top flight status. The team either wins or loses, they don’t do draws, just three out of their 30 games at the time of writing. Importantly they have managed 12 wins and with Claudio Beauvue in such scintillating form – his winner against Concarneau was his 21st goal in all competitions – confidence must be high that going into Easter, as the team lies 10th, seven points above the relegation zone, they can avoid the drop.
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