Paris: Saint-Etienne battled blizzard-like conditions in the Rhone-Alpes region to move fourth in Ligue 1 following a 4-1 win over Montpellier on Saturday.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his 11th goal of the campaign as further strikes from Brandao, Yohan Mollo and Mathieu Bodmer extended Saint-Etienne’s winning streak to four in a match delayed for 45 minutes due to heavy snowfall.
“I find it scandalous,” said Montpellier coach Rene Girard of referee Philippe Kalt’s decision to ultimately let the match run its course.
Saint-Etienne boss Christophe Galtier conceded the decision had been “very difficult” for the official, blaming the circumstances on a “rules problem”.
“From the time where one team has taken a two-goal lead, it would appear very difficult to stop the match,” said Galtier.
“In other leagues, matches can be stopped and restarted with the relevant time left and the same score. If we had this type of rule... surely [the referee] would have stopped the game.”
Victory for Saint-Etienne saw them climb above Nice and Bordeaux to fill the last of the European places with the club’s six-game winless run over the festive period becoming an increasingly distant memory.
Brandao converted Aubameyang’s low cross to stake the home side to a 13th-minute lead before Gabonese star Aubameyang scored in his third successive outing with a deft backheel from Renaud Cohade’s teasing ball into the box.
The second half was delayed by 15 minutes as groundstaff worked to clear snow off the pitch at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, but the interruption failed to halt the hosts’ momentum as Mollo pounced on a loose ball inside the penalty area just three minutes after the restart to coolly tuck under Geoffrey Jourdren.
Remy Cabella replied instantaneously to give Montpellier a glimmer of hope as he expertly steered beyond Stephane Ruffier with play then held up for a second time on 65 minutes as conditions again deteriorated.
The action resumed following a 30-minute interval with Bodmer marking his Saint-Etienne debut, following his loan move from Paris Saint-Germain, with his team’s fourth on 74 minutes as he headed in a Cohade free-kick.
Elsewhere, a spectacular first-half overhead kick from Ricardo Faty handed Ajaccio a 1-0 win over Bordeaux, extending the Corsicans’ unbeaten sequence to five matches, while Valentin Eysseric grabbed a late equaliser for European hopefuls Nice in a 1-1 home draw with Lorient after Lucas Marque had given the visitors the lead.
Second-half goals from Floyd Ayite and Odair Fortes earned Reims a 2-1 victory at basement club Nancy, who had gone ahead through Sebastien Puygrenier on 29 minutes.
Valenciennes beat Brest 2-1 thanks to efforts from Mathieu Dossevi and Rudy Mater with the away side clawing back a consolation goal through Florian Raspentino, while Troyes moved off the foot of the table following a goalless stalemate with Sochaux.
On Friday, PSG beat Bastia 3-1 to go six points clear at the top but Lyon can trim that advantage to three points if they overcome Lille today.