Cup of cheer for faltering Lille
French league leaders Lille cast aside their stuttering league form of late to book a place in the French Cup final with a 2-0 win at Nice.
Goals either side of half-time by budding Belgian Eden Hazard with a fine angled drive and Gervinho, who beat the offside trap to score with a cool finish at the Stade de Rey, saw Lille reach the trophy match for the first time since 1955, when the northern outfit lifted the Cup for the fifth time. Since their mid-1950s heyday, Lille have rarely hit the headlines - though they did reach the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in 2007.
This year, they have suggested their silverware drought could end on two fronts as, the Cup aside, they have spent a large chunk of the season in the thick of the title race and currently top the table a point ahead of defending champions Marseille. However, Saturday's draw at home to Bordeaux was an opportunity missed to put a hand on the championship trophy.
The heady heights of top spot has not sat well with Lille in recent games as prior to the Bordeaux encounter Rudy Garcia's side lost 1-0 at relegation candidates Monaco. But against Nice they cast off any nervous shackles that might have hampered their progress to see off a side which had banished relegation fears in recent weeks on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run.
Nice were hoping to reach a first major final since the 2006 League Cup, but they ended well beaten as Lille dug deep to show why they are heading for a renewed acquaintance with the Champions League.
Wednesday's other encounter sees second division Angers, who lost 6-3 to Toulouse in the final of the 1957 competition, host holders Paris Saint-Germain. Despite years of under-achievement in the league PSG have won the Cup three times in the past seven years.
More pertinent to Wednesday, Antoine Kombouare's side played superbly to see off Lyon on Sunday, moving the capital club to within a point of third place and a potential Champions League qualifying berth.
In seeing off Lyon, who currently stand third, PSG, now seven points adrift of Lille with seven games left, ended a six-game winless streak that saw them eliminated from the UEFA Europa League by Benfica as well as dent their hopes of a major say in the title race.