Second-tier AJ Auxerre turned back the clock on past glories as they beat holders En Avant de Guingamp 1-0 on Tuesday to reach the final of the Coupe de France.
Frederic Sammaritano scored the only goal of the game for the unfancied outfit, currently eighth in Ligue 2, after 15 minutes.
“We’ll savor this achievement. I’m very proud to coach this group, they deserve to go through,” Auxerre coach Jean-Luc Vannuchi said.
“Our final was tonight, we won it. Now we’re going into a new dimension, whoever our opponents will be,” he said.
Sitting back, relying on the pace of their counterattacks and despite being down to 10 men when Jamel Ait Ben Idir saw red after 73 minutes, Auxerre managed to hold out Guingamp, who featured in the UEFA Europa League this season and are currently 11th in Ligue 1.
“We’re disappointed because we got so close to our goal. It’s tough, but we didn’t deserve to go through,” Guingamp coach Jocelyn Gourvennec said.
Sammaritano’s strike was enough for Auxerre, who are no pushovers in the Coupe de France, having won five out of six matches they have played at this stage of the competition — that last defeat coming in 1989 against Olympique de Marseille. On four of those occasions they went on to lift the Coupe.
Relegated in 2011-2012, Auxerre won a league and cup double under legendary coach Guy Roux in 1995-1996, while also lifting the Cup in 1993-1994, 2002-2003 and 2004-2005.
“Seeing Auxerre returning to the final after 10 years, it doesn’t make me younger,” Roux said.
“I’m not very demonstrative, but my internal joy was very real,” he said.
The Bourgogne side, who saw Eric Cantona, Bacary Sagna and Abou Diaby rise through their ranks, had previously knocked out Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace, Jura Sud Foot, Vendee Poire sur Vie and Stade Brestois 29.
Auxerre were the 12th second-tier club to reach the final of the Coupe de France — the first since Guingamp beat Stade Rennais in 2008-2009.
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