Mathieu Debuchy's renaissance continued on Saturday as he popped up with the late winner for AS Saint-Etienne away to RC Strasbourg Alsace.
RC Strasbourg Alsace 0 - 1 AS Saint-Etienne
This was a hotly anticipated fixture, one between two of France's most famous and best-supported clubs. Strasbourg were looking to get back to winning ways, their last victory coming on February 11 against ESTAC Troyes. Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, were hoping to continue their remarkable revival and further boost their hopes of snatching a European place, something that would have seemed impossible just a couple of months ago.
However, this was a disappointing encounter, lacking in goalmouth drama at the Stade de la Meinau. The hosts had the better of it though, with Benjamin Corgnet - playing against his old club - notably testing Stéphane Ruffier in the second half. Ruffier, who has returned to his best form in recent weeks during Les Verts' upturn in form, then pulled off a terrific stop from Dimitri Liénard (77').
But it was Saint-Eienne who snatched a late winner from their only attempt on target of the evening. Romain Hamouma could not connect with Kévin Monnet-Paquet's low ball into the box from the left, but Debuchy - having made a run into the area from the opposite flank - arrived to sweep home the crucial goal.
That is now 11 games unbeaten for Jean-Louis Gasset's side, who really must now be considered serious contenders to finish in a European place. In contrast, Thierry Laurey's Strasbourg have now failed to win in eight Ligue 1 Conforama matches and remain too close to the relegation zone for comfort.
THE PLAYER: Mathieu Debuchy
What more can be said about this man? His career revival since moving to Sainté from Arsenal at the end of January is one of the stories of the season. He has now scored four times in 10 appearances for Les Verts, and getting the winner here was the perfect way for Debuchy to redeem himself after his last-gasp own goal that allowed Paris Saint-Germain to leave the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard with a point last weekend. It is looking increasingly likely that he will go to the World Cup with France too.
THE STAT: 11
Saint-Etienne's 11-game unbeaten run (six wins, five draws) is their longest streak without losing a game in Ligue 1 Conforama since a 12-match sequence between October 2014 and January 2015.