The match between Saint Etienne and Lille was billed as match of the weekend in Ligue 1 given the teams standings. It was 5th v 2nd and 2nd one.
Saint Etienne have really punched above their weight this season and looked odds on for a European place and maybe even a Champions League one, but recent form had dipped before having to meet Lille who have been a revelation this season. Though Lille will not win the league as they are 14 points behind PSG and have played two games more they are eyeing 2nd place.
The game was a frantic one but was littered with 6 yellow cards and then Lille grabbed the game just as it looked like it was heading for a 0-0. Tensions had already been strong beforehand but when one of the starlets of the season Nicolas Pepe scored for Lille with just three minutes remaining you could have heard a pin drop in the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
With only one team realistically going to win from there on, the problems started. And it felt like the Argentina team level problems from the 1990 World Cup final when a few Saint Etienne players simply lost the plot.
Not one but two players would be sent off and the chaos of course simply played into Lille’s hands. The first to go was Mathieu Debauchy whose frustrations were taken out through un sport man like conduct and he wen 250 seconds after Pepe’s goal for a second bookable offence. But the embarrassment wasn’t over for the home side yet.
Striker Wahbi Khazri lost the plot in the 4th minute of injury time as his side had a chance to score and level everything up. He ended up receiving a straight red which will be a massive miss for his club who rely on his goals, and now he is set to miss at least 3 games in a row as the club try to home on in a European finish.
Despite this setback Saint Etienne coach Jean-Louis Gasset tried to remain optimistic. “We knew Lille were a stronger and faster team on the break. We were lucky not to take a hiding in the first half, but then at the end we were pushing for a winner and lost it on the counterattack with three minutes left. The two sendings-off will handicap our squad which is already affected by injuries.”
Gasset continued: “We wanted to get back on track after the match at Marseille. We tried, but we were clumsy and not good enough technically. There was a bit of frustration after the goal. Our European hopes are not over. We have lost to the three teams – Paris, Lyon and Lille – who are fighting for the Champions League. We have lost to teams who are stronger than us. Now we will try to remobilise everyone. Not everything is to be thrown away, even if we have not been playing as well since January now.”
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