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Les Herbiers in honourable 2-0 French Cup defeat to PSG

PSG midfielder Giovani Lo Celso is congratulated by Thiago Silva after netting the first goal in Tuesday's French Cup final against underdogs Les Herbiers at the Stade de France near Paris, 8 May 2018. AFP/Franck Fife

Third division Les Herbiers forced Paris Saint-Germain to work hard for their fourth straight French Cup on Tuesday, with the underdogs starting and ending strong despite spending most of the match on the defensive.

PSG hit the goalpost three times before Giovani lo Celso netted in the 26th minute, then had a goal ruled out by the video assistant referee before Edinson Cavani scored a penalty in the middle of the second half.

Les Herbiers had two shots in the opening two minutes but had to defend most of the game before Diaranke Fofana landed a shot on target in the 89th minute and Clement Couturier almost scored right at the end.

It was one of the greatest mismatches of any French Cup final, with Qatar-owned PSG, whose revenues last year reached around 500 million euros, coming up against a side form the lower reaches of France’s third division.

Les Herbiers gained widespread attention through their 10-game run for the French Cup, going from playing before some 200 fans in October to nearly 74,000 at the Stade de France on Tuesday.

The club sold 15,000 tickets for the final, which is about the population of the club’s home town of the same name in the western region of La Vendée.

PSG were the first Ligue 1 club Les Herbiers faced, and the loss was far from demoralising for a small club fighting to retain their spot in the third tier of French football.

“Honestly, there’s a lot of pride in having got this far and taken on Paris Saint-Germain, when you see what they’ve done in the Ligue 1 against some teams,” said Herbiers goalkeeper Matthieu Pichot.

“Yes, we lost this evening, but only 2-0, so we haven’t let ourselves down.”

Adding the French Cup to this season’s League Cup and Ligue 1 title wins was also a morale boost for PSG

Even though the Parisians have now won both the French Cup and the League Cup for four consecutive seasons and are unbeaten in their last 42 domestic matches, they have struggled on the European front, notably in their Champions League exit to Real Madrid.

“It’s very positive at the national level,” said midfielder Adrien Rabiot. “I don’t think we should downplay that.

“There were ups and downs during the season, of course, there was the disappointment with the European Cup, but it will come in time. We’ll work on it.”