Sainte ended nearly two decades of derby woe by defeating les Gones and moving back to the top of the table, leaving their great rivals in the relegation zone.A wonderful Dimitri Payet free kick gave Saint-Etienne the honours in the 100th Derby du Rhone as les Verts moved back top of Ligue 1 at the expense of Olympique Lyonnais, who find themselves in the relegation zone.
With 74 minutes on the clock, Christophe Galtier’s side were awarded a controversial free kick 25 yards from goal, but Payet’s execution was unerring, delivering a stunning effort into the top corner of Hugo Lloris’ net.
The winger was twice a hero at the opposite end of the field by clearing decisively from the line, frustrating Michel Bastos late on when the Brazilian had sent a header from a corner kick spinning towards the back post.
This was a hit and run exercise par excellence. Though Sainte bossed much of the ball in the first half, virtually all of the meaningful chances went the way of the home team, who were playing at a far higher tempo and with far more vim than they have in recent weeks.
An energetic opening ten minutes brought nothing in the way of serious goalmouth action but Bafetimbi Gomis hit the post with a header as the home side slowly began to click into action. On 72 minutes when the score was still blank the former Vert thought he had downed his former employers but his volley was wiped out as he was deemed offside.
There would be more golden chances for Claude Puel’s men. Payet has seven league goals for Sainte this term, but he proved equally useful on the defensive end when he leapt impressively to clear a Jeremy Toulalan header that was destined for the top corner. In the second half, Sylvain Marchal would make an equally telling intervention when he cleared as Yoann Gourcuff closed in on the goal line.
From open play, les Gones would struggle to create a wealth of chances. On a quick counter on the half hour mark, Michel Bastos was given freedom in the left channel, but his well struck shot was straight at Jeremie Janot and was hence beaten clear by the goalkeeper.
Territorially, Lyon would overwhelm their near neighbours, but many of OL’s openings would come from distance, with Kim Kallstrom regularly trying his hand unsuccessfully from outside the box.
Les Gones were ultimately unimaginative enough to break the resilience of their guests, and as Saint celebrate their first derby win since 1994, Puel must worry for his job as Lyon are hopelessly rooted in Le Championnat’s red zone with just one win all season. A huge banner unveiled amongst the home support stating ‘Puel demission’ (Puel resign) – said as much.