St Etienne score deep into extra time to seal dramatic return to French top-flight

10-time French champions St Etienne are back in Ligue 1 after two seasons away having come from behind to draw 2-2 with Metz after extra time, winning the Ligue 1 play-off 4-3 on aggregate to relegate Les Grenats to Ligue 2.

Needing to overturn the one-goal first-leg deficit, Metz’s task was made tougher after just six minutes when Pape Amadou Diallo was sent off for a high challenge on Dennis Appiah.

That only seemed to galvanise Metz, who peppered the St Etienne goal with long-range efforts before taking the lead on 17 minutes when Koffi Kauou’s low cross was played back across the danger area by Matthieu Udol, who put it on a plate for Lamine Camara to bundle home.

Metz then completed the turnaround midway through the first half thanks to Georges Mikautadze, who proved too difficult for Les Verts to deal with as he dribbled his way from the left wing and into the penalty area before being nudged over by Irvin Cardona.

Referee Brisard awarded the spot-kick, which Mikautadze took himself and struck in off the post to put Laszlo Boloni’s side 3-2 up in the tie and score his ninth in as many games.

Mikautadze celebrates his goal
Mikautadze celebrates his goalProfimedia

However, that only lasted 10 minutes as the visitors pulled a goal back through Leo Petrot, who ghosted in at the back post to meet Aimen Moueffek’s flick-on from a corner and volley the ball into the roof of the net. 

St Etienne remained in the ascendency until first-half stoppage time, as their claims for a penalty for a suspected handball by Kauou were turned down.

Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja was called up soon after half time to clutch a firm header from Mathieu Cafaro and a strike from Florian Tardieu either side of Udol sending an effort skyward at the other end.

Just after the hour mark, Oukidja was at the centre of attention again when St Etienne thought they had grabbed their second; the goalkeeper was knocked to the ground by Ibrahim Sissoko after saving the striker’s close-range shot, leaving Yvann Macon to tap into an empty net.

However, after another VAR review, Sissoko was adjudged to have fouled Oukidja, and the goal was disallowed.

Match stats
Match statsFlashscore

The latter stages of normal time saw Olivier Dall'Oglio’s 11 men pushing for an equaliser, but despite plenty of territory, it was Metz who had the best chance through Arthur Atta’s blocked shot with 10 minutes to play.

Sissoko had a penalty claim of his own waved away in the last minute, meaning another 30 minutes lay in store.

Metz were still on the back foot at the beginning of extra time, with Oukidja being tested by Tardieu from distance, almost spilling the ball at the feet of Cardona.

Having soaked up the pressure, the hosts attacked down the right, and a low Danley Jean Jacques cross was reverse flicked goalwards by Kevin van den Kerkof, but this time it was Gautier Larsonneur’s turn to prove his worth in goal.

In the second period of extra time, Danley’s centre set up a glorious chance for van den Kerkof, only for Appiah to prevent a certain goal with a vital block.

Then, with just five minutes to play, the visitors decisively made their man advantage count by scoring the winner and dramatically securing promotion.

A move from the right side involving Appiah and Nathanael Mbuku cut Metz open and Ibrahima Wadji was on hand to finish and send the travelling fans into jubilation. 

As a result, Metz go straight back down with only three home wins all season their downfall, as St Etienne return to the top flight through the same method that sent them down in 2022.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Dennis Appiah (St Etienne)


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