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Les Verts clinch return to Europe

Publish on 18/05/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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Robert Beric scored a brace as AS Saint-Etienne secured their return to Europe with a 3-0 win over OGC Nice at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday.

AS Saint-Etienne  3 - 0  OGC Nice 

THE MATCH

After a slip-up at home to Montpellier Hérault SC last weekend, Saint-Etienne knew a victory here would secure a top-four finish and Europa League qualification. They duly got the job done despite Nice having most of the ball, with Beric scoring one in each half before Romain Hamouma wrapped up the points in a party atmosphere at Le Chaudron.

Nevertheless, this had the look of an extremely difficult fixture for Les Verts, who were hampered by injuries and suspensions, with Mathieu Debuchy banned along with their two leading scorers, Rémy Cabella and Wahbi Khazri. In addition, they lost left-back Pierre-Yves Polomat to injury early on, with youngster Wesley Fofana coming on for his top-flight debut in a defensive reshuffle.

Nice were also missing two defensive stalwarts due to suspension in Dante and Christophe Hérelle, and they were once again missing a killer touch in front of goal. They should have taken the lead just before the midway point in the first half, but after Stéphane Ruffier blocked a Pierre Lees-Melou effort at a corner, Danilo Barbosa headed the rebound against the bar before Ignatius Ganago headed his follow-up over.

The home side went in front soon after, with Yannis Salibur swinging in a free-kick from wide on the right and Beric escaping the attentions of his marker to control in the six-yard box and adjust his body to fire home (26').

Hamouma with a goal and assist

Hamouma set up Arnaud Nordin for a shot against the post before the interval, but Jean-Louis Gasset's men ran away with the game after the restart. They doubled their lead just before the midway point in the second half when Hamouma's inviting low cross from the right was poked in from close range by Beric (65'). Hamouma then got his name on the scoresheet in style, meeting Nordin's lay-off with a low first-time strike from 22 yards that gave Nice goalkeeper Walter Benítez no chance.

Saint-Etienne will be back in Europe after two seasons away, but they will have to settle for the Europa League after rivals Olympique Lyonnais wrapped up third place in the Ligue 1 Conforama table by beating SM Caen 4-0. Nice can not now finish any higher than seventh.

THE PLAYER: Robert Beric

Saint-Etienne fans might have feared for their side in the absence of leading scorers Cabella and Khazri, who have 21 league goals between them this season. However, Slovenian predator Beric stepped up with his brace leaving him on nine from 11 starts.

THE STAT: 0

This was the 15th league game this season in which Nice have failed to score. Their tally of 28 goals scored in 37 matches is the second-worst in the division. Only relegated EA Guingamp (27) have scored fewer.