Saint Etienne up to sixth with win over Bastia
Saint Etienne, once the leading lights of French football, kept their hopes of qualifying for Europe next season alive as they leapt into sixth place with an easy 3-0 win over Bastia on Sunday.
After losing ground in December when they hit something of a goal drought, Saint Etienne got their season back on track by taking an early lead through Brazilian Brandao after just nine minutes.
But it took until the 79th minute before they made the game safe when leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his ninth goal of the season, but his first since the start of November, after substitute Josuah Guilavogui set him up.
Guilavogui rounded things off five minutes from time with a powerful shot which left Bastia 'keeper Mickael Landreau no chance.
On Saturday, Marseille missed the chance to climb back into second spot as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Rennes in Brittany.
In an entertaining contest, Marseille led at the interval thanks to a strike from Ghana star Andre Ayew, who bulldozed his way through the home defence and exchanged passes with Mathieu Valbuena before poking the ball past advancing Rennes 'keeper Benoit Costil.
However, they were pegged back just before the hour mark when defender Kevin Theophile-Catherine powerfully headed home a right-wing corner for a rare goal.
Both sides had chances to go on and win the game after that as the action swung from end to end.
Ayew's brother Jordan put Marseille back in front with just seven minutes remaining after Morgan Amalfitano sent in a tantalising cross but in the 88th minute, Rennes rescued the point they deserved.
A long clearance from Costil created confusion in the Marseille defence and Romain Alessandrini nodded the Bretons level to move them into fourth place, six points adrift of Marseille and one ahead of Nice.
The draw left Elie Baup's side three points behind leaders Lyon - 2-0 winners at Valenciennes on Friday - and adrift of Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference before the capital club entertain Lille on Sunday evening.
"I am a bit disappointed with the players as we had the three points in the bag until the 88th minute," observed Baup.
Andre Ayew also voiced frustration.
"We are very frustrated as the three points were there for the taking, though it's still a good away point against a good side. We can still do better," the Ghanaian striker said.
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