CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Monday, January 17, 2011
An outburst of scoring in the final quarter hour saw Carlos Bocanegra and Saint Etienne take the lead on the road at Lens, only to concede it within five minutes.
Saint Etienne rued their missed chances on Saturday evening, having been offered the chance to pressure the race at the top of the Ligue 1 standings.
A conceded penalty and unfortunate own-goal led to their demise, much to the jubilation of the 32,000 Lens faithful in Stade Félix-Bollaert.
Carlos Bocanegra went the distance for the 16th time this season, this time in a losing effort.
The visitors threatened within six minutes after Bakary Sako streamed down the left side past Yohan Démont and orchestrated a silver platter delivery across the area.
Inches out of reach for two teammates, Saint Etienne's Dimitri Payet connected with the loose ball, but Lens netminder Vedran Runje was there with a leg deflection.
The goalkeepers kept the first half scoreless with Saint Etienne's Jérémie Janot having his turn in the 41st minute, fending off a one-on-one situation with the oncoming Toifilou Maoulida. In spite of contact in the penalty area, referee Clément Turpin signaled to play on.
The second half saw most of the action in the encounter. Les Verts were the recipients of a stroke of luck with 12 minutes remaining, as a deflection helped them take the lead.
Emmanuel Rivière set up the strike, with a drive into the box that the Lens defenders snuffed out. Sako followed up with a blast at the top of the box that grazed Chelle on the way into the net past Runje for the lead.
The Stéphanois then shot themselves in the foot in the 82nd minute, allowing 66th minute substitute Eduardo room in the box to pursue a delivery. Janot tried his best to intervene, but tripped up the Brazilian prompting Turpin to point to the spot.
Midfielder Sébastien Roudet stepped up to slot to the left past Janot for his second of the season and the equalizer.
Not even a minute later, the hosts continued their pressure and set up a corner their next time down the field. Grégory Sertic's delivery fell into the box, pinballed around, and took a Loic Perrin deflection on its way into the net for the own-goal and the clincher for Lens.
The result finds Saint Etienne in eighth with 29 points with two weeks to prepare for their showdown with Toulouse FC.