AS Saint-Etienne moved to within touching distance of the top three as Wahbi Khazri's free-kick was enough to give them a 1-0 win at En Avant Guingamp on Saturday.
EA Guingamp 0-1 AS Saint-Etienne
Goal: 0-1 Khazri (7')
The 1-1 draw of third-placed Olympique Lyonnais at home to Stade de Reims 24 hours earlier gave the visitors additional motivation: win, and they would move level on points with their arch-rivals.
Guingamp, bottom of the table but with Wednesday's shock Coupe de la Ligue quarter-final win over Paris Saint-Germain sending their self-belief stratospheric, promised to be a major threat to those ambitions, but Khazri quickly brought the hosts down to Earth.
The former Girondins de Bordeaux and Stade Rennais FC man's ability to strike a dead ball unerringly is well documented — it will be even better so now with the Tunisia international guiding a 25-metre effort past Marc-Aurèle Caillard, who might feel he should have done better (7').
A goal to the good against opponents they had already beaten this season, the visitors controlled the game without threatening to add to their advantage inside the first half-hour, and after being lulled into a false sense of security, Johan Larsson should have punished them but completely miskicked at close range (34').
After that let-off, Stéphane Ruffier's reflexes preserved Saint-Etienne's lead (36') against a Guingamp side that — under new boss Jocelyn Gourvennec — had won its last four competitive matches.
Former Saint-Etienne foward Nolan Roux brought another stop from Ruffier (52') as Guingamp signalled their intentions early in the second half; Ronny Rodelin's shot that beat Ruffier but rattled a post very nearly gave substance to their ambitions (62').
There was no panic from Guingamp, who had scored their goals late to beat PSG, but — this time — there was no fairytale ending with Ruffier keeping out a final, last-gasp effort from Alexandre Mendy (90+4') as the Breton hosts suffered a 14th defeat in their last 22 league outings to remain bottom of the table.
THE PLAYER: Wahbi Khazri
Again, the skilful midfielder-cum-forward again proved his worth to his side with his tenth league strike of the season, though this was only his second away from home in that tally. His creativity and set-piece specials give Saint-Etienne an edge over most of their rivals.
THE STAT: 9
Guingamp have not won any of their nine home games in Ligue 1 Conforama this season — this was their sixth defeat.