Brandao fires ASSE third, Clément woe
By D. Crossan
In-form Saint-Etienne forwards Brandao and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were both on the scoresheet in a 4-0 home win over Nice that fired ASSE third. But Les Verts midfielder Jérémy Clément suffered a fractured ankle.
AS Saint-Etienne 4 - 0 OGC Nice
Clément was injured midway through the first half when Nice midfielder Valentin Eysseric went over the top with his challenge, the former Monaco man becoming only the second Les Aiglons player to see red this season. Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier said afterwards that he would have preferred to have lost for the first time in 2013 than to have lost Clément, who will miss the rest of the season.
Aubameyang from the spot
Nice, who came into the game with the best defensive record in 2013 with only two goals conceded, were already a goal down by the time they were reduced to 10 men. Aubameyang netted his 15th goal of the season from the penalty spot, calmly stroking the ball home as the Gabonese international extended his scoring streak to six straight Ligue 1 games. Aubameyang had won the penalty himself, fouled by Kévin Gomis after using his pace to get the wrong side of the centre-half.
Nice had a goal disallowed seconds later as Renato Civelli was pulled up for knocking the ball out of Stéphane Ruffier's gloves and into the net. Nice failed to muster a legitimate shot on target the whole game as Saint-Etienne set about trying to take advantage of their numerical superiority. Renaud Cohade had David Ospina at full stretch late in the first half and soon afterwards Brandao glanced a header wide from an Aubameyang right-wing centre.
Brandao's best-ever season
On the hour Brandao struck his fourth goal in as many games in all competitions, sweeping home a left-footed finish to Yohan Mollo's cutback from the left. Nice's resistance was broken and ten minutes later Mollo scored his third Saint-Etienne goal since joining on loan from Nancy, tapping into the unguarded net after thrilling approach play from Aubameyang and Brandao.
Saint-Etienne have won their last three home league games by three goals or more and they completed the rout in the 75th minute as the unmarked Brandao headed in sub Romain Hamouma's precise cross from the right. The 32-year-old Brazilian moved on to nine goals for the season; his best-ever Ligue 1 haul, beating the eight he managed in Olympique de Marseille's title-winning 2009-2010 campaign.
Confidence high ahead of Rennes and PSG
ASSE have scored 20 goals in just seven league matches in 2013 and this emphatic victory carried their goal difference on to +25, way better than their rivals for third place. OM, who have a goal difference of +1, are now a point behind ASSE and need to beat Troyes at the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday to reclaim third spot.
With a Coupe de la Ligue final to come and also through to the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France, this could well prove to be a glorious season for Galtier's men who are on a run of testing fixtures with Rennes away in Week 28 and then Paris Saint-Germain visit the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Week 29.