Ligue 1 review | Eric Roy spearheading Brest’s unlikely Champions League charge

Back in late October, as time was ticking away it looked like Stade Brestois would hold on for a famous 2-2 draw at home to Paris Saint-Germain. Les Pirates were fifth in the table experiencing a historic start to Ligue 1 under summer appointment Eric Roy. 

However, it was not to be. Randal Kolo Muani was brought down in the box in a rare lapse of judgement by Lilian Brassier, and in the 89th minute, Kylian Mbappé stepped up to the spot. The star was built for occasions like these, and as he took the shot there was little doubt what the outcome would be. 

Only for a brief moment did Brest dare to hope as Marco Bizot parried the shot away, but Mbappé was too fast as he pounced on the rebound to settle the game. The defeat dropped Brest down to seventh, while the next week brought the small club from Brittany their fourth defeat of the season as they were beaten by Monaco. 

The beginning of the end?

It was hard to see any other conclusion than the bubble was burst and the hot streak that had seen the team climb as high as the top spot was well and truly over. The season before, Brest had struggled to stay up spending most of the year fighting a relegation battle. It was unlikely that over the summer they could be transformed into a team capable of challenging the Champions League positions. 

However, this is exactly what Roy has achieved in his short time as their manager. There was no bubble to burst, as Roy stated early in the season his team had not “robbed anyone.” The points they had gained until their run of defeats had not been stolen, they were built on a disciplined approach that emphasised solid defensive work. 

And that work was still present even in those defeats. Following the loss to Monaco, Brest did not crumple but instead remained unbeaten, picking up five victories and a draw to close out an impressive year. 

This momentum only continued after the winter break, with Les Pirates winning all three of their fixtures, which meant that coming into the weekend the club were third and in imperious form before their visit to the Parc des Princes. 

Brest the real deal 

The start was not promising for Roy’s men. The team defended well for most of the first half but the floodgates opened as a Bradley Barcola masterclass began to take shape. The winger ran rampant on the left of the PSG attack where his creativity and his willingness to attack were on full display.  

The winger was essential to both of PSG’s goals, as he recorded an assist for the first, and helped develop the other. As good as Brest had been up until this point in the season, there was once again that familiar feeling that often accompanies playing the league leaders. 

The feeling that no matter how well you have performed, the team from Paris are just that bit too good, and the weaknesses in your side that you try and cover and protect will slowly get exposed. 

However, Brest did not let the deficit turn their heads. They instead played a game that has been so often seen this season from Les Pirates, as they were composed in attack and defence. As Roy stated after the game, “Being 2-0 down at the Parc des Princes can turn into a nightmare, but this team has always believed in itself. Lots of teams would have crumbled at half-time.

A second-half comeback brought back the familiar 2-2 scoreline, but there was to be no déjà vu of a late rescue from Mbappé. The loss to PSG was painful earlier in the season because of how close they had been, but this result was likely to soothe some of that disappointment and prove quite firmly that Brest are the real deal this season as they continue their search for what could be their first ever podium finish. 

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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