Fear then liberation: long abused, Lens has taken a big step towards the Champions League and can still dream of the title after dominating Reims (2-1), Friday at the start of the 35th day of Ligue 1.
With 75 points, the Blood and Gold have temporarily taken a five-point lead over Marseille, which receives Angers on Sunday (8:45 p.m.). Lens has also still not said goodbye to the title, since Paris Saint-Germain, leader, only points to three points before receiving Ajaccio on Saturday (9:00 p.m.).
At the end of the season, the Lensois have the advantage of knowing that they are masters of their destiny, they who are assured if they win all their matches of finishing in second place, synonymous with direct qualification for the Champions League.
They are, on the other hand, fully aware of the threat that would hover over them at the slightest misstep, since Marseille would have had the opportunity, in the event of success in Reims at Bollaert, to regain the place of runner-up to Paris SG.
This hypothesis probably did not disturb the Lensois at the start of the match. They were more enterprising in the first minutes, like a strike from Loïs Openda stopped in two stages by Yehvann Diouf (4th) then a dangerous cross that the Reims goalkeeper had to take out to relieve his defense (11th).
Far from falling apart, the Champenois gently pulled their heads out of the water and in turn were able to be dangerous through Jens Cadjuste, whose shot was however too soft to worry Samba (16th).
Reims strikes entry
Showered by the intense rain that had been falling on the stadium since the start of the match, the Lensois were also affected by the whistle against Kevin Danso, guilty of a push on Marshall Munetsi in the area (19th). The referee did not hesitate either by designating the penalty spot or by sanctioning the Austrian international with a red card.
Despite the deafening whistles of the Bollaert public and the good anticipation of Brice Samba, who dived on the right side, Folarin Balogun converted this penalty with a shot adjusted close to the right post (23rd).
Although reduced to 10, Franck Haise decided not to change anything. A choice which allowed Lens to continue to move forward, but which also exposed them to attacks from Reims. Junya Ito (34th) then Alexis Flips (36th) had their chance but both shot wide of the cages guarded by Samba.
As half-time loomed, Lens in turn got a penalty when Adrien Thomasson collapsed in the area, pushed by Emmanuel Agbadou (38th).
Irreproachable in this exercise this season, Przemyslaw Frankowski transformed it with a powerful strike from the center (40th) to return to 1-1 just before the break.
Fofana still decisive
Upon returning from the locker room, the Lensois had momentum again, but Openda lacked sharpness twice (46th, 50th).
As against Marseille last weekend, the deliverance came from the Blood and Gold captain, Seko Fofana. The Ivorian international recovered the ball 25 meters from the Reims goal and got rid of two Reims defenders before adjusting Yehvann Diouf with a cross shot (55th).
Deprived of part of its ultras suspended for a match after fireworks and smoke bombs against Monaco, the Bollaert stadium shook when Balogun collapsed in the area after a duel against Samba (73rd) . But the French goalkeeper had not touched the Reims striker, who received a yellow card for simulation.
Lens hooks a 16th success at Bollaert this season, for a draw and a defeat. The artesian club is only three games away, against Lorient, Ajaccio and Auxerre, from a second place which would be a resounding feat, three years after its rise in Ligue 1.