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Ligue 1 chasers Ajaccio to play Toulouse in empty stadium

Ligue 1 chasers Ajaccio to play Toulouse in empty stadium

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French football authorities have ordered second division Ajaccio to face Ligue 1 play-off rivals Toulouse in an empty stadium following ugly scenes over the weekend when fans of the Corsican club attacked the team bus of visiting Le Havre.

After hitting Ajaccio with a stadium ban for the home leg of their two-leg playoff against Toulouse, the French Professional League (LFP) ordered the Corsicans to play the match in an empty stadium in Montpellier.

The decision means Ajaccio are free to continue their bid to rejoin France’s top flight, although the club will appeal the ruling preventing them from playing at their Stade Francois Coty.

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“It’s a disgrace, there is no legal basis for it,” said Ajaccio president Leon Luciani. “We’ve played 19 matches here, in Ajaccio, and nothing has has ever happened. We’ve appealed and will go in front of the courts.”

Le Havre, based in northern France, had launched their own appeal following the violent scenes in Ajaccio in recent days, although it was rejected by the LFP.

After one postponement, four red cards, a dramatic late equaliser and a penalty shoot-out, Ajaccio moved a step closer to promotion on Sunday.

The scheduled Ligue 2 promotion play-off between Ajaccio and Le Havre was postponed in surreal scenes on Friday after fans of the Corsican club attacked the visitors’ team bus.

Players and officials from Le Havre were subjected to racist abuse, called “shitty French” and, according to videos circulating on social media, sat in terror inside the team bus as it was hit by stones and other projectiles.

Le Havre returned home and then came back for Sunday’s rescheduled game, only to see their hopes of promotion go up in smoke.

Four red cards
The match finished 1-1 after 90 minutes, but Ajaccio midfielder Mathieu Coutadeur was sent off in extra time after pushing the referee, who also awarded a penalty, which on-loan Lyon striker Jean-Philippe Mateta scored — his second goal of the night — to put Le Havre 2-1 up.

That appeared to be that, but Mateta was then sent off for the provocative manner in which he celebrated his goal.

Two more players were also dismissed, leaving the sides to complete extra time with nine men each.

Ajaccio’s Mady Camara made it 2-2 in the fifth minute of added time in extra time, forcing penalties, and the Corsicans duly won the shoot-out 5-3.

Le Havre claimed the extraordinary scenes at the weekend, which also saw Corsican fans invade the pitch, had unfairly obstructed their bid for promotion and appealed to the LFP to be awarded victory.

However the appeal was rejected by the LFP, which said: “There is nothing to constitute taking this match away from Ajaccio.”

Le Havre on Tuesday pledged to “continue our fight and appeal” the LFP’s decision to validate Sunday’s result, which effectively drew a line under their promotion bid.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a former mayor of Le Havre, said he was “dismayed” by the incidents.

“Dismayed by the series of events, dismayed by the violence and brutality upon arrival of the Le Havre players at the ground Friday night, dismayed by the violence, the tension around the stadium and inside the stadium on Sunday evening,” he said during his weekly Facebook Live video.


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