Lorient were deep in crisis as May 1977 began. They were en route to relegation to the French third flight and in danger of going bankrupt. Les Merlus were also, somehow, on the verge of eliminating Reims – whose six top-tier titles was a total bettered only by Saint-Etienne – and reaching the Coupe de France semi-finals.
Goals from Bernard Goraguer and Roger Marette had given Lorient a 2-0 lead to take north for the second leg, and 35 years ago to this Thursday, Louis Hon and his troops were confident of protecting it.
Reims coach Pierre Flamion made just one alteration to his starting XI, with Francis Schaller replaced by the fit-again Carlos Bianchi. It was a change that was to prove decisive.
Bianchi, indeed, took just eight minutes to halve the hosts’ aggregate deficit, before his fellow Argentinian Santiago Santamaria hit a quick-fire double to put Les Rouges et Blancs 3-0 up on the night. And when, on 27 minutes, Bianchi made it 4-2 to Reims on aggregate, the tie appeared well and truly settled.
Many a team would have crumbled, but Marette’s neatly-taken strike returned Lorient to within a goal of booking a last-four date with Nice. Yet although the visitors came out for the restart fighting, Bianchi punctured their hopes by completing his hat-trick and extinguished them by netting his fourth goal and amplifying Reims’ overall advantage to 6-3 on 75 minutes. Within three minutes, Santamaria had scored twice more to secure himself a personal quadruple and put his side 8-1 up on the evening.
In stoppage time, Marette’s penalty took a little slice off the large deficit, and though the French forward’s three goals over 180 minutes were worthy of applause, there is no doubt one of the highest-scoring fixtures in French football history – one in which only three men shared the ten goals - belonged to Reims’ two Argentinian forwards.