AS Saint-Etienne remained firmly in the hunt for a place in next season’s Champions League after coming from behind to defeat visiting AC Ajaccio 4-2 on Wednesday.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted twice to take his season’s tally to 19, while Mathieu Bodmer and Renaud Cohade were also on target after Adrian Mutu had struck the opener for Ajaccio with the Romanian then adding a late consolation for the Corsican club.
Victory for Christophe Galtier’s side saw them climb above LOSC Lille Metropole into fourth place and close to within two points of Olympique Lyonnais for the final Champions League spot, with second-place Olympique de Marseille a further two points ahead.
Defeat for Ajaccio means they are just two points clear of the relegation zone, having won just once in their last nine outings.
Four days after the euphoria of celebrating the club’s first trophy in 32 years following Saturday’s 1-0 triumph over Stade Rennais in the French League Cup final, Saint-Etienne found themselves a goal down after a quarter of an hour at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Benjamin Andre nodded the ball into the path of Mutu with the Romanian slotting home on the half-volley via the aid of a sizable deflection off Loic Perrin that wrongfooted goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.
The hosts did not trail for long though as Yohan Mollo capitalized on an error from central defender Yoann Poulard before squaring the ball for Aubameyang to steer into an empty net.
Ajaccio keeper Guillermo Ochoa then thwarted Mollo twice to keep the scores level going into the break, but the Mexican’s resistance was broken three minutes after halftime as Bodmer collected the ball on the edge of the box before swiveling and firing beyond Ochoa.
Saint-Etienne’s third came just two minutes later as Aubameyang deftly steered a Brandao pass into the stride of Cohade who coolly side-footed into the far corner.
However, Ajaccio refused to roll over and reduced the deficit on 76 minutes when Mutu scored from the penalty spot — his 10th goal of the season — after Kurt Zouma was penalized for a handball.
Aubameyang though made the points safe for the home side two minutes from the end as he ran onto Faouzi Ghoulam’s lofted pass and drilled beyond a helpless Ochoa for his 19th goal of the campaign, a total second to only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (27).
Meanwhile, Troyes secured a vital three points in their uphill fight to remain in the top division with a 2-1 win at slumping Rennes.
Jean-Christophe Bahebeck gave ES Troyes AC an early lead before Jeremie Brechet added a second on 27 minutes, while Julien Feret’s penalty on the half hour provided nothing more than a consolation for Rennes, who saw their winless run extended to nine matches.
Troyes stayed bottom despite the victory, but drew to within six points of safety with five games remaining, while Rennes remained 10th after a fifth straight loss.