Saint-Etienne beat Reims to maintain momentum
AS Saint-Etienne kept pace with their rivals for a top-three finish as Mathieu Debuchy and Wahbi Khazri's first-half goals gave them a 2-0 win over Stade de Reims on Saturday.
AS Saint-Etienne 2-0 Stade de Reims
Reims arrived at the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard unbeaten in five, and promised to test the hosts' own fine start to the campaign which had seen them lose just twice — to Paris Saint-Germain and LOSC Lille — in their opening 12 matches.
The hosts, however, seized the initiative within a minute. Khazri's free-kick on the right led to Mathieu Debuchy climbing highest in the penalty area, and the France international right-back headed home (1').
Khazri was required to clear a Björn Engels header off his own line (11') before he gave Jean-Louis Gasset's men margin for error. The Tunisia international was in the right place to turn in Ole Selnaes's cross to net his sixth of the campaign just before the break (39').
Edouard Mendy's fine save from a Neven Subotic header in added time (45+3') gave Reims hope for the second half, but David Guion's side struggled to find an answer to their problems in front of goal which have seen them find the net just eight times all season.
Sheyi Ojo tested Stéphane Ruffier after coming off the bench (63'), but it was the hosts who came closest to adding to the scoreline.
Kevin Monnet-Paquet raced down the left and cross for Romain Hamouma, unmarked in the centre of the penalty area — had the former SM Caen man's first touch not let him down, he surely would have sorely tested Mendy at the very least (73').
Rémy Cabella flashed a volley just wide (80') and then found the crossbar in added time (90+3') as Saint-Etienne moved to within a point of arch-rivals Olympique Lyonnais in fourth ahead of the Rhône derby next time out, and are now just two off the top three.
THE PLAYER: Mathieu Debuchy
The former Newcastle United and Arsenal FC full-back has seen his career revitalised since moving to Saint-Etienne last January. His early goal set Les Verts en route to another win.
THE STAT: 16
Saint-Etienne have lost just once — to Girondins de Bordeaux last May — in their last 16 home league games.