Beric stars as Saint-Etienne go fourth
Robert Beric put in a man-of-the-match performance as AS Saint-Etienne pulled into a provisional fourth place in Ligue 1 Conforama with a 2-1 win over surprise European aspirants RC Strasbourg Alsace.
AS Saint-Etienne 2-1 RC Strasbourg Alsace
Les Verts raced into the lead inside the first five minutes, with Timothée Kolodziejczak crossing into the Strasbourg area for Beric, who headed home his first goal of 2019 (4'). Strasbourg could have returned fire almost immediately when Youssouf Fofana strode into the ASSE box and squared for Ibrahima Sissoko, but the France U21 midfielder blazed wide with the goal at his mercy (6'). Sainté had a penalty claim waved away soon after (10') but they continued to dominate fist-half possession, only to find visiting 'keeper Matz Sels in miserly mood. Yann M'Vila blasted a shot straight at the Belgian (24') before the shot-stopper pulled off a stunning save to keep Kévin Monnet-Paquet's header at bay (26'). Sels' full-backs simply let him down, though, and after yet another cross into his box - this time Beric going from taker to maker - ASSE captain Loïc Perrin was on hand at the back post to nod home their second (26'). Beric could have put the game beyond doubt just past the half-hour, but he fired off target from close range (31'). Strasbourg conjured their first chance with the first half drawing to a close when Lebo Mothiba raced clear, but his shot from the right was comfortably collected by Sels' opposite number Stéphane Ruffier (41') and the sides went in for the half-time break with the hosts looking comfortable at 2-0.
Strasbourg coach Thierry Laurey made a pair of changes at the interval, bringing on Anthony Gonçalves and Adrien Thomasson in an attempt to shore up his team's midfield, and the former was central to a fine chance for the visitors minutes later, pinging a pass to Nuno da Costa. The striker's subsequent volleyed had Ruffier well beaten, but flew just the wrong side of the post for the visitors to reduce the arrears (48'). Monnet-Paquet and Wahbi Khazri combined for a chance at the other end, finding a way past Sels, but Stefan Mitrovic was on hand to clear the danger off the line (71'). Le Racing duly pulled one back, Da Costa getting the break of the ball in the box following a corner to stroke home from mere metres out (72'). Beric went down following a Da Costa challenge in the dying minutes, but on reviewing VAR, referee Jérôme Brisard reversed his decision to give a penalty (84'). ASSE then ran down the clock, closing out a 2-1 win that takes them into the fourth and final European place, at least until the weekend.
THE PLAYER: Robert Beric
Beric has struggled to re-establish himself in the Saint-Etienne starting line up since returning from his loan to Anderlecht last year, with the re-purposed Khazri leading the line - on his own - with aplomb, but the Slovenia striker was back to his best against Strasbourg, and his goal and assist should give coach Jean-Louis Gasset some food for thought for the games ahead.
THE STAT: 12
With their pair of first-half headers, Saint-Etienne have now scored 12 headed goals this season, the highest tally in Ligue 1 Conforama. Headed goals also account for some 35 percent of their total goal haul.