AS Saint-Etienne’s European aspirations received a major boost when they beat Montpellier Herault Sport Club 1-0 at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard.
The Stephanois have been in superb form this season, and while the club have long looked on course for a Europa League spot, their victory over MHSC moves them into the Champions League positions.
Admittedly, they are likely to end the day back in fourth—with AS Monaco still to play Racing Club de Lens—but Stephanois look set to battle for a place at the continental high table right until the season’s end.
They were impressive against Montpellier, without being dominant, but demonstrated the determination, discipline and resolve that has seen them overcome so many of their flakier rivals this term.
They also, of course, can boast former Leeds United winger Max Gradel, one of the division’s outstanding players—particularly in 2015, when he has been in superlative form.
The Cote d’Ivoire returned from a triumphant showing at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in the middle of February, and beginning with a goal in a 2-2 draw of Olympique de Marseille, has bagged eight goals in his last eight Ligue 1 matches.
It’s a superb record, and Montpellier were to become the latest victims on Sunday as a sole Gradel effort downed the Rolland Courbis’s side, who themselves have ambitions of a European place.
Impressively, Saint-Etienne defeated Montpellier despite the absence of some of their key players.
Captain and defensive stalwart Loic Perrin was a notable absentee, while Fabien Lemoine also missed out due to suspension.
Christophe Galtier deserves immense credit for the manner with which his team have maintained their intensity and their discipline this term.
The manager has been linked with the Newcastle United post, and performances such as this one—not to mention Saint-Etienne’s league form in general—will surely make Mike Ashley think twice about appointing current interim coach John Carver on a permanent basis.
Montpellier, by contrast, remain in seventh, three points behind Bordeaux—their hopes for a return to Europe next season appear to be slim.