Saint-Etienne take top spot
By S. Willis
Les Verts cruised into provisional first place on Friday night with a 1-0 win over Valenciennes, Romain Hamouma scoring his fourth of the season to stretch his side's unbeaten run to 11 matches in all competitions.
AS Saint-Etienne 1 - 0 Valenciennes FC
With nine of Saint-Etienne's 11 unbeaten matches having taken place in Ligue 1, Christophe Galtier's side had reason for confidence as they welcomed Valenciennes to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, and Les Verts played accordingly as they stymied the league's leading attack to secure the narrow win in an entertaining match.
Saint-Etienne's remarkable form has been especially evident at home this season - their record of five wins and one draw is second only to Lyon - and they needed all the home comforts at their disposal as Valenciennes produced their typically open, attacking brand of play.
Hamouma does it again
However, after an evenly balanced first half, gifted midfielder Hamouma made the most of a sweet through-ball from ex-VA man Renaud Cohade, opening the scoring with a deft angled shot (73').
Daniel Sanchez's Valenciennes side didn't give up, pushing their hosts to the limit in the final 17 minutes, but after their penalty claim for hand-ball by François Clerc in the area was waved away, the northerners had to settle for the narrow loss - just their second in eight matches - and for staying put in provisional sixth place.
Saint-Etienne now sit equal on points with arch-rivals Lyon atop the table, but even though this fact has doubtless warmed many hearts in Saint-Etienne, OL have two matches in hand and can pull clear as early as Sunday night when they travel to Toulouse.