AS Saint-Etienne beat relegation-threatened Evian Thonon Gaillard 1-0 in Ligue 1 on Sunday to move level with third-placed Olympique Lyonnais, who lost by the same scoreline at Stade de Reims as their already slim title hopes evaporated.
Saint-Etienne scored the only goal 12 minutes from time. Francois Clerc crossed to the far post and Romain Hamouma’s header crashed off the underside of the crossbar. The ball went down onto the line and Evian goalkeeper Bertrand Laquait was unable to keep it out.
Evian protested fiercely, but replays showed the ball had crossed the line.
Laquait had kept Evian in the game with earlier heroics. He was beaten on the stroke of halftime, but Yohan Mollo’s strike crashed off the right upright.
Evian are just one point above the bottom three.
“Just like you all, I could see the apathy of the team at the beginning of the match,” Lyon coach Remi Garde said. “I think that hurt us all game. There is something that is broken and I’m quite worried. I have noted that there is a lot less energy, a lot less enthusiasm in the team, and that when there are efforts, they are more individual than collective. I have no explanation.”
Lyon were desperate for victory after two consecutive defeats, but made things difficult for themselves six minutes into the second half when Milan Bisevac conceded a penalty with a foul on Diego.
The Lyon defender was then shown a straight red card for dissent.
Grzegorz Krychowiak sent his spot-kick straight down the middle to help Reims to their third win in five matches, a run which has seen them edge closer to safety.
Moments before the penalty, Diego had unleashed a powerful strike which crashed off the right upright.
Reims are four points above the drop zone.
LOSC Lille Metropole are fifth, a point behind Lyon and Saint-Etienne, after crushing Lorient 5-0.
Salomon Kalou and Dimitri Payet put Lille 2-0 up within eight minutes and Lucas Digne added another from the penalty spot.
Kalou scored a second before the interval and Ronny Rodelin extended Lille’s lead still further seven minutes into the second half.