Alexandre Lacazette delivered a timely reminder to France coach Didier Deschamps by scoring a hat-trick as Olympique Lyonnais beat bitter local rivals AS Saint-Etienne 3-0 on Sunday.
The win moved Lyon above Stade Malherbe Caen and into second place in Ligue 1, 10 points behind runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain, while Saint-Etienne dropped down to fifth.
Deschamps overlooked the 24-year-old Lacazette when he named his squad on Thursday last week for upcoming friendly internationals against Germany and England, saying his form was not good enough, but Lacazette, last season’s top scorer in Ligue 1 with 27 goals, scored a brilliant first goal in the 41st minute, pounced for the second in the 59th and rounded goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier to stroke in the third in stoppage-time.
“I didn’t score in the big games last season and that was my weakness,” Lacazette said. “I’ve done that tonight.”
Lyon move to a new stadium next season, meaning that it was the 55th and final local derby against Saint-Etienne at the Stade de Gerland, but there were no visiting fans to mark the occasion as they boycotted the match in protest at their allocation of only 600 seats, which were subsequently taken by the home fans.
There were some heavy tackles early on, with Saint-Etienne’s Vincent Pajot yellow-carded inside the first minute and his midfield partner Fabien Lemoine also booked moments later for a lunge on Lyon winger Mathieu Valbuena.
Lyon fullback Rafael, who joined in the summer from Manchester United, joined them in the referee’s book for hacking down Pajot.
There was little goalmouth action until late in the first half, when Ruffier made a superb double save from midfielder Jordan Ferri and then Valbuena following up, but he was powerless to prevent Lacazette’s opener moments later.
Scrapping for a bouncing ball on the edge of the penalty area, Lacazette stretched to flick the ball with the outside of his foot, span around and then beat two defenders for pace before dinking the ball expertly over Ruffier.
He grabbed his second after Ferri and Rafael combined for a one-two and Rafael’s shot was saved by Ruffier.
As tempers frayed near the end, Saint-Etienne midfielder Loic Perrin bled from the mouth after Lyon defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa caught him with a flailing arm at a corner, sparking a brief melee.
After Ruffier beat away striker Claudio Beauvue’s shot in the 82nd minute there was time for another goal as Lacazette ran onto Ferri’s pass, skipped around Ruffier and finished confidently.
Players from both sides sought to confront each other at the final whistle, with security officials intervening to keep them apart and Lacazette dragging Ferri away.
“Lyon deserved to win, but we didn’t act like this when we beat them 3-0 last season. It’s not good, you must stay humble,” Saint-Etienne midfielder Jeremy Clement said.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Girondins de Bordeaux climbed up to 11th place after a 3-1 win against AS Monaco, thanks to goals from midfielders Nicolas Maurice-Belay and Jaroslav Plasil, either side of a goal from defender Cedric Yambere.
Earlier, striker Valere Germain scored the winner as OGC Nice won 1-0 away to Olympique de Marseille to move up to sixth place.
Germain made a sharp run to latch onto a pass and burst through Marseille’s centerbacks, before driving a low drive past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in the 16th minute.
Missing key midfielder Lassana Diarra and in-form winger Romain Alessandrini, the home side struggled.
Winger Hatem Ben Arfa, recalled to the France squad last week, almost doubled the lead in the 35th minute after embarking on one of his trademark solo runs, but Mandanda thwarted him.
“I thought we played some great football, especially in the first half when we used the ball really well,” Nice coach Claude Puel said.
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