RECAP: WEEKEND FRENCH ACTION
After playing for the US national team last week, Carlos Bocanegra returned to the starting lineup for St. Etienne as they fought to a draw with Valenciennes.
St. Etienne 1 – 1 Valenciennes FC
The Greens did well to come away from their trip up north with a point thanks to a Dimitri Payet equalizer.
Carlos Bocanegra resumed his spot in the backline for Stephanois coach Christophe Galtier, and saw a full ninety of action.
After a scoreless first half, Valenciennes's scoring-leader Grégory Pujol smashed home his twelfth of the season in the 49th minute to give the hosts the 1-0 lead. From the right side the 31-year-old Frenchman had plenty of room to make his way into the midfield and pull the trigger from 30 yards out.
Bocanegra opened the door, stepping aside to let netminder Jérémie Janot handle the strike, but it was out of the Stephanois keeper's reach, slipping in just inside the right post.
Midfielder Dimitri Payet saved the day for the visitors in the 58th minute with his tenth tally of the season, also a fine individual effort. Corralling a cross-field pass, the Frenchman caught the Valenciennes defence off guard with a blazing run into the midfield and a shot from 25 yards out that Nicolas Penneteau couldn't catch up to at the right post, bringing the affair to a 1-1 scoreline that stood until the final whistle.
The Greens will happily put an away point in their pocket, but must step a spot down in the Ligue 1 to 7th after Montpelier Hérault's win over Toulouse FC.
Bocanegra and St. Etienne return to the road next weekend with a Saturday night showdown against relegation-threatened AJ Auxerre.
Keeper Quentin Westberg watched from the bench Friday night as FC Evian TG defeated Nîmes Olympique by a score of 1-0, and took hold of the top spot in Ligue 2.