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Laborde gives Montpellier big win at Saint-Etienne

Publish on 10/05/2019 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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Gaëtan Laborde's goal gave Montpellier Hérault SC's hopes of a top-four finish a major shot in the arm as they won 1-0 at AS Saint-Etienne on Friday to close on their opponents in the race for Europe.

 AS Saint-Etienne 0-1 Montpellier Hérault SC 

THE MATCH
The stakes were high for both sides with Montpellier knowing they had to win to keep alive their European ambitions while victory for Saint-Etienne ensured European football next season, and the three points could make it UEFA Champions League rather than Europa League.

Jean-Louis Gasset, up against his hometown club, had seen his side win six times in an unbeaten seven-match run, triumphing in the last four, but Montpellier — who started the game seven points back in fifth — had won three and drawn one of their last four, and had the better of the opening 45 minutes.

But for Stéphane Ruffier, the Saint-Étienne goalkeeper, Montpellier would have been two goals up at the break. First, he kicked away Florent Mollet's shot (32') after the ex-FC Metz midfielder had been brilliantly played in by Gaëtan Laborde, who was then denied at the near post by Ruffier (38').

Surging

Despite their outstanding form coming into the game, Saint-Etienne struggled to create a sustained attacking threat. Wahbi Khazri's shot over the crossbar (23') and Rémy Cabella's surging run and low drive wide of the target (40') were their best efforts as they spluttered through the opening half.

Daniel Congré's red card (53') for a challenge on Arnaud Nordin — reviewed on VAR by referee Benoît Bastien — appeared to hand Saint-Etienne an advantage, but Rémy Cabella's dismissal for a second bookable offence soon after (62') evened things out.

Laborde ensured the visitors then compounded the blow to the hosts, drilling low across and beyond Ruffier to put Montpellier ahead (64') — it was the former Girondins de Bordeaux striker's 11th league goal of the season, and his first in ten L1 matches.

Dashed hopes

Laborde came close to adding a second after a mistake by Yann M'Vila had allowed him to be played in, but though he chipped the advancing Ruffier, his shot rolled wide of the empty goal (68').

Saint-Etienne could have — and probably should have equalised.

But a combination of Lecomte, who saved from Nordin (66') and Pierre-Yves Polomat (90+8'), and poor finishing, most notably from Robert Beric (85') — the Slovenia international's close-range header was straight at Lecomte — meant their hopes of climbing above Lyon ahead of OL's trip to Marseille on Sunday were dashed.

THE PLAYER: Andy Delort
The Montpellier top scorer might not have found the net, but worked tirelessly for his team, and was a real thorn in Saint-Etienne's side. He could have added a second in stoppage time only for Ruffier to deny him.

THE STAT: 2
This was only Montpellier's second clean sheet in their last 12 league games.