Bouanga brace helps Saint-Étienne beat Nice
Denis Bouanga hit two as AS Saint-Etienne swept OGC Nice away 4-1 on Wednesday to move to within touching distance of the top three.
AS Saint-Etienne 4-1 OGC Nice
Saint-Étienne were looking to bounce back from their defeat at Rennes on Sunday, Claude Puel's first as their coach. They could not have wished for a better start. Though Robert Beric stabbed a glorious opportunity wide, the Slovenia international's blushes were spared as the ball had struck Youcef Atal's en route to him — Bouanga buried the spot-kick (11').
Stéphane Ruffier recently passed the legendary Ivan Curkovic's number of appearances, but the Saint-Etienne goalkeeper was strangely out of sorts, and his usual reliability deserted him when he appeared caught out by Wylan Cyprien's dipping free-kick, parrying the ball to the feet of Kasper Dolberg, who whipped in his fifth league strike of the season (15').
Ruffier did the same later in the first half and was fortunate to see Pierre Lees-Melou fire over with the goal at his mercy (30'). At the opposite end, Walter Benitez had brilliantly pushed away a curling Bouanga effort (25') before Romain Hamouma was put clear by a sublime through ball from ex-Nice man Franck Honorat and clinically put the hosts in front (38').
Incredibly, Beric missed another gilt-edged opportunity (39'), but did not have long to rue it as Wesley Fofana leapt at the near post to glance in his first-ever Ligue 1 Conforama goal and give Puel's side a handy lead at the interval (40').
It was stretched before the hour mark as Bouanga headed home his second of the night (58') before Saint-Étienne contented themselves to keep Nice at arm's length. Cyprien raised pulses with a shot across goal (84'), but Vieira's side have now lost their last six away matches and are only five points above the bottom three.
THE PLAYER: Denis Bouanga
The summer arrival from Nîmes Olympique was the star man again and would have had a hat-trick but for Benitez. With seven league goals already, he's just one shy of the career-best tally he recorded last season.
THE STAT: 17
Saint-Étienne have claimed 17 points from a possible 24 since Puel took charge.