Sainté Euro hopes hit
Saint-Etienne's European hopes were dealt a blow in a 3-2 defeat at Nancy on Sunday night.
Nancy took the lead six minutes in at the Stade Marcel-Picot courtesy of Benjamin Moukandjo and never looked back. The same player increased the hosts' lead in the 21st minute before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for Les Verts. However, Yohan Mollo got Nancy's third before half-time and Saint-Etienne were unable to come back again, even if veteran Laurent Batllès did bring it back to 3-2 20 minutes from the end.
Saint-Etienne will now have to win their final game of the season at home to Bordeaux, and hope that Rennes do not overtake them on goal difference, if they are to make it into the Europa League. Meanwhile, Nancy recorded a first win in six matches and now know that they will finish the season in 11th spot, a respectable placing for a club who for a long time were one of the favourites to go down.
Saint-Etienne were one of four teams still in contention for the final Europa League place available via the league, and they were hoping to continue their excellent recent record in meetings with Nancy. Les Verts had not lost any of their last eight games with the men from Lorraine. In addition, Jean Fernandez's side appeared to have one eye on their summer holidays after losing their last two games.
However, they were determined to sign off with a win in front of their home fans, and they got off to the perfect start, taking the lead when Cameroonian Moukandjo pounced on a poor backpass from Sylvain Marchal to net.
Saint-Etienne attempted to hit back immediately and Guy-Rolland N'Dy Assembé made a double save from Aubameyang and Max-Alain Gradel. And instead Nancy went on to double their lead midway through the first period when Bakaye Traoré was intercepted by Marchal, but Moukandjo was on hand to fire home the loose ball for his second of the game and his fifth of the season.
Aubameyang's 15th of the season
Aubameyang then hit the post before finally finding the net in the 39th minute, sliding the ball underneath N'Dy Assembé after Josuha Guilavogui had helped on a cross from Fabien Lemoine. It was the Gabon star's 15th goal in Ligue 1 this season and, remarkably, his 11th away from home.
However, rather than build on that goal, Saint-Etienne quickly conceded again at the other end. Yohan Mollo has been a revelation for Nancy since joining on loan from Granada in January and he restored the hosts' two-goal cushion with a shot from a tight angle that visiting 'keeper Stéphane Ruffier should have saved.
Mollo struck Ruffier's right post at the start of the second half, while Ruffier prevented Moukandjo from completing his hat-trick as Nancy threatened to run riot. But Saint-Etienne managed to reduce the arrears for a second time when N'Dy Assembé turned a Bakary Sako cross into the path of Batllès, who found the net only minutes after coming off the bench.
N'Dy Assembé then made a vital save to stop Aubameyang from equalising before Nancy missed a glorious chance to score a fourth when André Luiz blazed over from a penalty awarded for a foul by Marchal on Moukandjo.