The Associated PressSAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — Moments before lifting the French Cup again, Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva beckoned the valiant skipper from beaten third division side Les Herbiers to join him.
After a moment’s hesitation, unheralded Sebastien Flochon shuffled across to the Brazil defender and they held the trophy aloft together.
It was a fitting tribute to the resilience of the tiny club from western France following its 2-0 defeat against vastly superior opposition.
The performance by the players of Les Herbiers — whose average annual salary of about €30,000 ($36,000) dwarfs the massive pay packets at PSG — was full of courage and spirited defending.
It earned a guard of honor from PSG and a rousing ovation from the traveling, red-and-white clad fans of Les Herbiers.
The club’s coffers will also be significantly boosted, with the third division team earning €1.5 million ($1.8 million) — 75 percent of its annual budget.
That’s a drop in the ocean for PSG, which has an annual budget of more than €500 million.
A fourth straight French Cup and League Cup double seemed assured. But while PSG secured a domestic treble, the team made hard work of seeing off Les Herbiers — whose population of 16,000 is five times less than the capacity of the Stade de France.
PSG fielded its strongest side and went close several times before midfielder Giovani Lo Celso opened the scoring after 26 minutes.
PSG then missed a succession of chances, and had a goal from Kylian Mbappe disallowed by the Video Assistant Referee system, before Edinson Cavani slotted in a penalty in the 74th minute.
Roared on by its fans, Les Herbiers went close when substitute Clement Couturier raced through in injury time.
PSG coach Unai Emery hugged his counterpart Stephane Masala after the final whistle, visibly impressed by the way his superbly organized side had resisted so well.
“I’m very proud of my players, my club, and my town,” Masala said. “We held on, and didn’t get routed. At the end, we even almost scored.”
Masala’s players continue their fight to avoid relegation to the fourth tier with a crucial match on Friday.
PSG won a record-extending 12th French Cup and claimed a 42nd straight victory in domestic cup competitions since Jan. 2014.
While PSG’s stars head to the World Cup in Russia in June, this is likely to remain the biggest game of their lives for Les Herbiers.
Before kickoff the team met French President Emmanuel Macron, who said “enjoy yourself” as he shook the hand of each player.
Masala told Macron “you’re a source of inspiration for me,” referring to his improbable rise to the presidency last year.
West Brom assured of drop
SWANSEA, Wales (AP) — West Bromwich Albion was relegated from the Premier League on Tuesday after Southampton beat Swansea 1-0 to leave the Welsh club facing an uphill task to preserve its seven-year stay in the top flight.
Manolo Gabbiadini converted a close-range shot in the 72nd minute as Southampton moved three points above the drop zone and almost guaranteed its place in the Premier League next season thanks to a superior goal difference to its rivals.
Swansea stayed third from last — in the final relegation place — and now must beat already-relegated Stoke on the final day of the season on Sunday, while also requiring 17th-place Huddersfield to lose to Chelsea on Wednesday and Arsenal on Sunday.
“We must try to do our part and see if a miracle can happen,” Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal said. “We had things in our hands, and now we don’t. We are depending on others.”
The game is up, however, for West Brom, which cannot escape the bottom three heading into the final weekend.
West Brom did well just to survive this long, with relegation looking a certainty for months until Darren Moore took over as caretaker manager in early April as a replacement for the fired Alan Pardew.
Under Moore, West Brom is undefeated in five games and has beaten Manchester United and Newcastle away and Tottenham at home.
The side needed a draw between Swansea and Southampton to keep alive its faint hopes, but Gabbiadini put paid to that.