St. Etienne trounces poor Ajaccio

St Etienne maintained their impressive Ligue 1 form and piled more misery on basement side Ajaccio with a 3-1 win.

Goals from Max-Alain Gradel, Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Banel Nicolita saw ASSE home with room to spare, improving their recent record to just one defeat in nine league matches.

The first-half dismissal of Leyti N’Diaye did little to help Ajaccio, although they managed to get on the scoresheet through Fousseni Diawara.

St Etienne had lost just once all season at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and their hopes of protecting that record were lifted with an eighth-minute opener.

Nicolita swung in a corner which Gradel pushed into the net off his thigh.

They came close to adding another after 19 minutes but Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made two saves in quick succession to deny Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the rebound from Nicolita.

A second goal followed after 33 minutes, though, with Aubameyang providing a cross into the area for Sinama-Pongolle to volley in from close range.

Things went from bad to worse for Ajaccio three minutes later when N’Diaye was given his marching orders for a crunching tackle on Sinama-Pongolle.

The home side set about making their man advantage count and Fabian Lemoine had a great chance to make it 3-0 at the start of the second half, lobbing a stranded Ochoa from 35 yards only for Mehdi Mostefa to race back and clear off the line.

Ajaccio responded to the threat this time and managed to pull a goal back after 59 minutes through Diawara, who was given space to head home a corner from Christian Kinkela.

But St Etienne continued to pull the strings and, although Gradel saw his strike come back off the crossbar after 80 minutes, Nicolita wrapped up the points six minutes from time with a first-time shot which flew past Ochoa into the net.