Ligue 1: Saint-Etienne thrashes Nice; Montpellier beats Lens
PARIS (AP) — Saint-Etienne kept the heat on Monaco in the fight for Champions League qualification with a 5-0 thrashing of Nice in the French league on Sunday.
A week after Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier criticized his players, the team produced its biggest win this season to provisionally move into fourth place — two points behind Monaco which later traveled to fifth-place Marseille. There are two rounds remaining after this weekend.
Saint-Etienne captain Loic Perrin, who missed last week's 1-0 defeat to Bastia, celebrated his 250th match in the first division with the opening goal when he headed home from a corner after 25 minutes.
Jeremy Clement then volleyed home to double the visitors' lead five minutes before halftime with his first goal for Saint-Etienne.
Nice saw its attempts to get back in the game denied by 'keeper Stephane Ruffier, who stopped a fine shot from Alassane Plea moments before Mevlut Erding scored his eighth goal of the season for the hosts.
Max Gradel and Kevin Monnet-Paquet added luster to the win on the break in the final 10 minutes.
Nice has yet to secure its future in the top flight, sitting in 15th place just five points above the relegation zone.
"Of course we are worried, we made a complete mess of this game," said Nice midfielder Eric Bautheac.
Earlier, forward Anthony Mounier scored in injury time to give Montpellier a 1-0 win against 10-man Lens, keeping alive his team's hopes of qualifying for the Europa League.
Montpellier trails sixth-place Bordeaux by three points. A sixth-place finish will be enough to advance to Europe's second-tier competition if league leader Paris Saint-Germain also wins the League Cup later this month.
In a match of few chances for both sides, Montpellier struggled to find a cutting edge even after Loick Landre was sent off in the 64th minute for a second booking. But a calm Mounier snatched his eighth goal this season with an angled shot past Valentin Belon after turning a defender.
Last-place Lens was demoted to the second division last weekend.