Saint-Étienne win at Nantes to go third
AS Saint-Étienne moved up to provisional third place in the Ligue 1 Conforama table with a 3-2 win at FC Nantes on Sunday that continued Claude Puel's unbeaten start as coach of Les Verts.
FC Nantes 2-3 AS Saint-Etienne
Nantes had slipped down the table after three successive defeats in which they had failed to score a goal, but knew that a win at the Stade de la Beaujoire would take them into second place. When Ludovic Blas fired home following Cristian Benevente's cutback, Christian Gourcuff must have secretly hoped the good times had returned (15').
They did not last for long as Saint-Etienne, who had won three and drawn one in four games under Puel, quickly hit back. Miguel Trauco's long diagonal ball started the move that led to a far-post cross coming into the box that the Peru international headed firmly past Alban Lafont (22').
Within four minutes, however, Nantes, who had not beaten Saint-Etienne in their last six meetings, were back in front. In almost a carbon copy of the opening goal, Blas cut the ball back to Imran Louza, and the homegrown midfielder sidefooted home his first league goal for the club (26').
Saint-Étienne were not brow beaten though despite falling behind for a second time, and were quickly again on level terms. Trauco sent another long diagonal ball from left to right, though this time it served as an excellent cross for Denis Bouanga to head home (34').
Stéphane Ruffier, who captained the visitors with Loïc Perrin, produced a brilliant stop to turn away a Blas long-range drive (35'). He looked beaten when Nicolas Pallois thundered a header goalwards only to see the ball strike the underside of the crossbar and bounce out (66').
Within 60 seconds, Saint-Étienne profited from their good fortune and got an even bigger slice of it as Bouanga broke clear and saw his shot ricochet off Andrei Girotto's boot to wrongfoot Lafont and race into the net (67').
The summer siging from Nîmes Olympique was only centimetres away from touching in an Arnaud Nordin cross for what would have been a hat-trick (75'), but he had already done enough to ensure the ten-time French champions would be celebrating another win.
THE PLAYER: Denis Bouanga
The Gabon international has played left wing-back at times in recent games, but excelled in his more usual attacking role in Nantes. The team's top scorer with five goals, he could not have wished for a better start to life in green.
THE STAT: 3
Saint-Etienne have now won their last three away league games.