Rémy Cabella enjoyed an afternoon to remember, scoring twice and setting up another goal as AS Saint-Etienne continued their revival with a convincing 3-0 win away to FC Nantes on Sunday.
FC Nantes 0 - 3 AS Saint-Etienne
Cabella was the creator of the goal that put Saint-Etienne ahead in the 17th minute, cutting the ball back for Mathieu Debuchy, who swept home at the second attempt to score his third goal since returning to French football from Arsenal at the end of January.
The visitors saw that as their just reward for alively start to the game. They probably should have been ahead inside five minutes, but Ciprian Tatarusanu made a good save from a Debuchy header before both Kévin Monnet-Paquet and Cabella had shots blocked, the latter being denied by Léo Dubois on the line.
Claudio Ranieri's side might have fallen further behind in the final minute of the first half, but Tatarusanu bravely saved from Cabella to keep the hosts in the game.
Nevertheless, Cabella struck twice after the restart to put the match to bed, first running through to slot home after Rene Krhin's pass had put Nicolas Pallois in trouble to make it 2-0 (54'), and then being afforded the time and space to advance and fire home low from range for his second and Sainté's third (64').
It was a miserable afternoon for Nantes, with Emiliano Sala - scorer of 12 Ligue 1 Conforama goals this season - twice missing the target when it seemed easier to score, once either side of half-time.
This was their heaviest home defeat since November 2016, and Nantes have now won just once in eight outings, form that is seriously jeopardising their chances of reaching next season's UEFA Europa League. In contrast, Saint-Etienne's form is such that they could yet qualify for Europe themselves.
THE PLAYER: Rémy Cabella
Cabella could have joined Nantes on loan from Olympique de Marseille back in August, but opted for Saint-Etienne instead. He was the star of the show here on his 200th appearance in Ligue 1, with an assist and two goals - he has five for the season now for Les Verts.
THE STAT: 9
Saint-Etienne's run without defeat is now nine games long (five wins, four draws). That has turned Jean-Louis Gasset's side into outside European contenders, something that was unthinkable just a few weeks ago. Paris Saint-Germain are their next opponents.