Monaco, Lens reach semi-final
Monaco twice fought back from a goal down to beat Sochaux 4-3 after extra-time and take their place in the semi-finals of the French Cup following a topsy-turvy encounter on Wednesday.
Sochaux are currently six places behind Monaco in 14th place in France's top division, but they took the lead in sensational fashion in the 29th minute at the Stade Louis II. Ryad Boudebouz bagged a goal to remember by sweeping home from a full 50 yards after home goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier scuffed an attempted clearance.
However, Sebastien Puygrenier headed the hosts level moments later and 19-year-old Nigerian Lukman Haruna put Monaco ahead seven minutes before half-time with a sumptuous half-volley inside the left-hand post from the edge of the area.
Sochaux, French Cup winners in 2007, levelled within three minutes of the second period through Stephane Dalmat, who then teed up Ideye Brown for the visitors' third goal 19 minutes from time. Francis Gillot's men were on the cusp of the last four but, in the third minute of injury time, substitute Juan Pablo Pino brought down a high ball on the edge of the box and rifled a deflected shot into the bottom-left corner.
Pino played a key part in Monaco's winning goal after four minutes of extra time, with a low shot that Sochaux goalkeeper Teddy Richert palmed into the path of Moussa Maazou, who smashed home.
"Everyone thought it was over at 3-2, but the boys were strong mentally," said Monaco coach Guy Lacombe, who enjoyed a successful spell as Sochaux handler guiding them to two League Cup finals, winning it in 2004. "Teams are forged in moments like that. It bodes well for the future."
Lens save best for last
Monaco join Paris Saint-Germain, Championnat de France Amateurs (fourth division) side Quevilly and Lens in the last four. Quevilly booked their place in the semi-finals with a 3-1 win over relegation-threatened Ligue 1 side Boulogne-sur-Mer on Tuesday, while PSG shaded Auxerre 6-5 on penalties after their tie ended goalless.
Lens were the last team to take up a semi-final berth after overcoming the shock of conceding a quick-fire goal to beat Saint-Etienne 3-1 on Wednesday. Kevin Mirallas put Les Verts 1-0 up inside 40 seconds but hosts Lens levelled through Eduardo before half-time and went through thanks to second-half goals from defender Alaeddine Yahia and playmaker Sebastien Roudet.
Lens coach Jean-Guy Wallemme said that it had taken a rousing half-time talk to his players to get them going. "I said to the players: 'Over 100 metres we have fallen behind by 10 metres'. In the Cup, one has to have a valiant heart, energy but also the brain to score," said the former Lens central defender. "The Cup belongs to the players. They can do what they want. But without the desire there is no way of producing good performances.
"We have to learn from this experience. Three to four months ago the match would have been lost after conceding the early goal. Now we know how to come back into a match," he continued.