Coupe de France 32emes : L’Entente SSG vs SAS Epinal
Formed as recently as 1989, L’Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien have suffered their fair share of bad luck so far this century, missing out on promotion to Ligue 2 due to an FFF administrative error, then falling down the divisions and suffering bankruptcy (Vikash Dhorasoo’s stint as club chairman not succeeding in improving the situation).
Things are looking a little on the up in recent years, however. Last year the club won their CFA group to earn promotion and a return after an eight year break to the National, where they are going well this season, currently in sixth place with a second consecutive promotion not beyond the realms of possibility.
L’Entente’s Coupe de France has gone well so far too, with two home matches in their last two rounds successfully navigated. After easily dispatching New Caledonia’s AS Lössi 7-1, they then impressively beat Ligue 2 high-fliers Paris FC, prevailing 3-2 with a last minute El Hadji Dieye winner, after PFC had equalised a minute earlier. (L’Entente’s opener that day was scored by their top scorer – the brilliantly named William Sea Nessemon.)
While their Stade Michel-Hidalgo has served the team well in the Coupe so far, the team’s home form in the league has been slightly more sketchy – their three National defeats so far have all come at the Stade.
This may be a straw to cling to for SAS Epinal who, conversely to l’Entente, have ridden their luck which has perhaps now run out. After avoiding relegation from the National in both 2015 and 2016 purely due to the financial problems of others, they finally did drop down to the National 2 at the end of last season after finishing an agonising one point from safety. An immediate return seems very unlikely, with the Vosges outfit only seventh in their group (although with one or two games in hand over most of those above them).
A good Coupe de France run, perhaps repeating their run to Round of 16 in 2013 (during which they beat Ligue 1 Lyon and Ligue 2 Nantes, both on penalties), would therefore provide some relief to their suffering fans.
The Spinaliens have also just come through two home ties to reach this stage, first also defeating outre-mer opposition, overcoming Guadeloupe’s SC Moulien 6-2 at home, before a 2-1 win over fifth tier Blanc-Mesnil. Their league away form, however, won’t have l’Entente shaking in their boots – SAS have won only one match on their troubles this season – and that was as long ago as 2 September – a 4-2 win at Raon-l’Etape.
There’ll be a lot of hope, then, placed on the shoulders of their top scorer Segbé Azankpo Désiré, who scored all four goals in that match in only his second appearance, and has also scored three in the last two cup ties. The Benin international has an impressive record in the lower leagues and has resisted offers from around France and abroad in order to stay in and around the Grand Est region (he moved to the area in 2011 when he joined Metz as part of their famed Generation Foot partnership). While all the smart money will be on l’Entente, they would be well advised to keep a tight rein on Désiré, who would like nothing more than to do his adopted home proud.