Saint-Etienne climbs to 3rd place with win against Nantes

PARIS (AP) Goals from Jonathan Bamba and Robert Beric lifted Saint-Etienne to a 2-0 win over Nantes in the French league Sunday, a fourth consecutive victory that lifted the club one point behind leader Paris Saint-Germain.

Unbeaten in the league since August, Saint-Etienne moved level on points with second-place Rennes but has a worse goal difference and sits in third place in the standings.

In a match pitting together two clubs having won 18 French league titles between them, Saint-Etienne enjoyed most of the possession but had just three shots on target and converted two.

Bamba, a highly-praised winger who has been nurtured by Saint-Etienne, put the hosts ahead in the 25th minute with a shot in the top corner after beating two Nantes players. Slovenian striker Beric doubled the hosts’ lead in the 48th with a clinical finish after receiving the ball with his back to the goal.

”I think this is the first time since I took over (in 2009) that we picked up 13 points in six games,” said Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier. ”It gives us a good cushion of points ahead of the difficult times that could be awaiting us later on.”

Saint-Etienne’s fierce rival Lyon was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Marseille in an ill-tempered match that was interrupted for 20 minutes because of crowd trouble.

Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette, who also hit the post later in the first half, put the visitors ahead in the 25th minute from the penalty spot after being brought down in the area by keeper Steve Mandanda. Defender Karim Rekik headed in Marseille’s equalizer in the 68th minute from a corner.

Marseille players reserved a tough welcome for Mathieu Valbuena, who found himself at the receiving end of many rough tackles but produced a convincing display against his former club with his accelerations and precise crosses. Valbuena came close of giving Lyon the three points, but his right-footed volley ended inches wide in the 90th minute.

Marseille was made to pay for its numerous fouls when midfielder Alessandrini was sent off for another reckless two-footed challenge on Valbuena in the 43rd minute. Tempers flared in the stands too, and referee Ruddy Buquet sent the players back to the dressing room at the stroke of the hour after Marseille fans pelted the pitch with various projectiles including bottles and smoke bombs. Marseille created the best chances in the final half-hour as Lyon players struggled physically but could not find a cutting edge.

Monaco stumbled to its second home loss this season, losing 3-2 against Lorient. The Principality side got off to a poor start and trailed 2-0 after 18 minutes but came back in the match with goals from Almamy Toure and Thomas Lemar before Benjamin Moukandjo snatched the winner in the 59th against his former club.

Earlier, Enzo Crivelli came off the bench to score two minutes from time and salvage a 1-1 draw for Bordeaux against 10-man Toulouse.

Toulouse had the best occasions in the Derby de la Garonne and moved ahead when Adrien Regattin scored with a spectacular shot into the top corner. Toulouse had many chances to pull away in the second half but Bordeaux keeper Cedric Carasso made several good saves. He was at his best in the 85th minute to thwart Tongo Hamed Doumbia’s attempt and Bordeaux finally pulled level in the 88th minute when Crivelli scrambled in the equalizer.

Toulouse played with 10 men for the last 14 minutes following Oscar Tejo’s sending off for a rough tackle.