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France: Blizzard doesn't slow Saint-Etienne

Photo: Philippe Desmazes/Getty Images

Heavy snowfall interrupted Saturday's match pitting Saint-Etienne and defending champ Montpellier.

PARIS (AP) -- Saint-Etienne beat defending champion Montpellier 4-1 to move up to fourth place in the French league on Saturday.

Montpellier had found a bit of form to win its past two league games, but fell quickly behind to striker Brandao's goal before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with his 11th of the season, and winger Yohan Mollo made it 3-0 before halftime. Winger Remy Cabella pulled a goal back early into the second half before the match was interrupted because of heavy snowfall.

"I won't dispute the fact that these were borderline playing conditions, but I will savor this win. We scored four goals and beat the defending champion,'' Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier said. "I wish to praise the attitude shown by my players, the way in which they played.''

When the players resumed, midfielder Mathieu Bodmer added the fourth goal in his first appearance since joining on loan from French leader Paris Saint-Germain.

Saint-Etienne has won four straight league games and its next two matches are away to struggling Reims and Nancy.

"The playing conditions were difficult after the break but we managed to face up to that,'' Saint-Etienne right back Francois Clerc said. "It was difficult but we still scored three goals in the snow, which proves that it wasn't that unplayable.''

But Montpellier coach Rene Girard disagreed and said the game should have been called off midway through the second half.

"I told the referee what I thought. I find it scandalous,'' Girard said. "There are people who are there to take their responsibilities.''

Elsewhere, fifth-place Nice was held to a 1-1 home draw by Lorient and sixth-place Bordeaux lost 1-0 at Ajaccio.

Saint-Etienne's win means it is only two points behind Marseille, which travels to play relegation battler Evian in Sunday's games. Marseille is three points behind second-place Lyon and six behind PSG, which beat Bastia 3-1 at home on Friday. Lyon hosts Lille on Sunday.

In Saturday's other matches, it was: Nancy 1, Reims 2; Troyes 0, Sochaux 0, and Valenciennes 2, Brest 1.

Ajaccio has been hard to beat in recent weeks and the Corsican side settled the match with a goal from midfielder Ricardo Faty in the 31st minute.

Meanwhile, left back Lucas Mareque gave Lorient the lead with 15 minutes left but Nice salvaged a point thanks to midfielder Valentin Eysseric's 82nd-minute goal.

Nancy had won its past two games to give it hope in its relegation scrap, and took the lead through center half Sebastien Puygrenier in the 29th, but fellow struggler Reims hit back with second-half goals from midfielders Floyd Ayite and Odair Fortes to move out of the relegation zone.

Rennes can move up to fifth spot if it beats Toulouse in Sunday's other game.

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