Guingamp's incredible run to their maiden Coupe de la Ligue BKT final has belied their poor Ligue 1 Conforama form and provided some magical Phil Collins-esque moments for French football fans. While the threat of relegation continues to loom for the Breton side, the Coupe de la Ligue BKT has offered a refreshing alternative to the club that lifted the Coupe de France in 2009 and 2014.
This latter success was achieved under current coach Jocelyn Gourvennec, a Brest-born tactician who was reappointed for a second stint at the helm in November 2018, replacing Antoine Kombouaré. Under Kombouaré, Guingamp had already cleared the first Coupe de la Ligue BKT hurdle by seeing off Angers on penalties and since then, their charge has thrilled the Stade du Roudourou faithful.
Famously, Guingamp's population of around 7,000 could be accommodated more than twice over in the charming and atmosphere-filled Roudourou. Guingamp take pride in being a provincial club, as evidenced by the unveiling of their official tractor towards the end of February. Nice were seen off, again on penalties following a goalless draw, just before Christmas and then Guingamp stunned the French football world by winning at five-time defending champions Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals in January. The club at the foot of the top division prevailed at the runaway league leaders in a dramatic encounter.
Guingamp were awarded three penalties on the night. Marcus Thuram, the son of 1998 FIFA World Cup winner Lilian, missed the first in the 61st minute and a minute later the writing appeared to be on the wall as Neymar nodded home for the hosts. Guingamp had other ideas, however. Yeni Ngbakoto equalised from the spot (81') and then Thuram showed remarkable nerve to once again step up to the spot when he was fouled by Thilo Kehrer in the second minute of added time. The talented striker made no mistake this time, clinching the win to avoid a third penalty shootout in as many ties in the competition.
A delighted Gourvennec commented: "It's unusual to have three penalties in a match but they were all penalties. Sometimes you have days like this that are a little bit magic. You justhave to take it in and enjoy it. "It was a great performance, but hard to explain. There are gulfs between us and them, but we showed that anything is possible." PTI AH