CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Sunday, April 10, 2011
Carlos Bocanegra and Saint Etienne allowed two leads to slip through their fingers as they played to a hard-fought draw at Auxerre.
AJ Auxerre 2 – 2 AS St. Etienne
AJ Auxerre came from behind twice in a spirited affair on Saturday evening, but felt like losers after entering relegation territory with only a draw.
Carlos Bocanegra resumed his 90-minute duties in the backline for Les Verts and watched his fellow defenders relinquish the lead.
The visitors needed almost a half-hour to crack open the scoring which came with a bit of luck and poor defending.
With plenty of room at the midfield circle to push forward, Dimitri Payet delivered a through-ball to Emmanuel Riviere cutting in from the right side at the top of the box.
Auxerre keeper Olivier Sorin was perhaps too ready to pounce on the opportunity and only managed to deflect Riviere's initial attempt off the striker again, leaving Riviere with an easy sitter to roll into the net for the lead.
Kenyan international Dennis Oliech brought the hosts back into the game three minutes before the break with a fortunate strike from 20 yards out that caught the Stephanois defense sleeping.
First collecting a toe-poke from Delvin Ndinga, the goal-thirsty Kenyan midfielder eyed the frame, but laid off for Kamel Chafni on the right flank, who immediately returned the pass.
With no other recourse, Oliech tried a left-footed strike from the top of the box that slipped past Josuha Guilavogui and keeper Jérémie Janot for the equalizer.
Auxerre came out of the halftime ready to add to their lead and thought they had a penalty in the 52nd minute after Bakary Sako lashed out at Chafni and brought the Moroccan to the ground. Referee Antony Gautier remained silent and shortly thereafter showed Chafni a yellow for dissent.
St. Etienne made something out of nothing in the 70th minute to retake the lead after Riviere caught up with a long feed down the right side, and threaded a perfect pass through a cavalry of Auxerre defenders to find Pierre Emerick Aubameyaang sneaking through.
With the ball popping out into the open space of the box, the Gabon native only had to slot past Sorin for the one goal lead.
Ten minutes later Auxerre got the penalty call they thought they should have already received when Faouzi Goulam botched a challenge and yelled timber on Polish striker Ireneusz Jelen.
Jelen's compatriot Darius Dudka stepped up to poke home the equalizer and eventual decider.
St. Etienne remain in seventh with 41 after collecting the consolation point, and look to conjure up miracles for a Europa League spot next weekend when AS Nancy Lorraine come to town.
Quentin Westberg watched his teammates cruise in Sedan on Friday night, in a 4-1 victory that keeps them poised at the top of Ligue 2 with eight games to go.