After reaching the Coupe de France final in midweek, William Saliba and Saint-Etienne faced Bordeaux back in Ligue 1 at the weekend.
After a dreamy Thursday game, St-Etienne had to focus again on Ligue 1 and their fight for safety. In that context, Les Verts were welcoming Bordeaux at home for what was another decisive game.
For the game, starting in a 4-3-3, Claude Puel picked a fairly similar lineup and the same back four with Saliba and Fofana as centrebacks whilst Debuchy and Kolodziejczak were occupying the sides.
St-Etienne started well, we could tell that Thursday’s game gave them confidence, whilst Bordeaux were very timid. As a result, the back four had very little to do during those first 45 minutes. Besides some minor interventions.
It was a fairly clean first-half from the Arsenal loanee who even had the opportunity to go forward, as he took responsibility since the midfielders were neither offering many options nor being very creative.
The first 45 minutes ended with Bordeaux having zero shots on target whilst St-Etienne had some good opportunities and should have probably done better.
After a quiet first-half, Bordeaux came back with better intentions as they put more pressure on St-Etienne. For instance, Saliba had to put the ball out for a throw-in in the 54th minute after good pressing from the Bordeaux forward.
As the visitors were playing higher up the pitch, Les Verts struggled even more with their creativity and the two centre-backs were forced to play very laterally as they were given were few passing options by the midfielders.
In the 63rd minute, St-Etienne switched to a 4-2-3-1 after Nordin came in for Aholou.
In the 65th minute, with their first shot on target, Bordeaux scored. Saliba was lightly pushed in the back in an aerial duel and could not recover the ball, he then stopped playing to turn himself towards the referee to ask for a foul. In the meantime, Kolodziejczak could not control the ball to clear it and Maja scored.
The goal was checked by VAR and validated. Although Saliba’s reaction was understandable there, he could’ve maybe done better.
That goal hurt St-Etienne, who had pretty much been the better team. However, they quickly reacted and equalised three minutes later thanks to Bouanga, who scored his tenth goal of the season in Ligue 1 following a good cross from Boudebouz. It was a good reaction from Les Verts who did not collapse.
Following a second yellow card in the 75th minute, Camara was sent off, leaving St-Etienne to play the remaining part of the game with 10 men. During those minutes, the team showed great solidarity, and as Bordeaux did not do much with its numerical advantage, the home side managed to be dangerous and had a few opportunities.
The defence did well and the two young centre-backs handled the few situations the away side had well. The game ended in a draw.
Although it is not ideal for Les Verts, one point is still important. Besides that, they showed a better face and it can almost be considered as a good game compared to what we have seen before. Things are far from being perfect but they seem to be on the right track and if they continue, it should be okay.
The road is still long to safety though with ten games left to play in Ligue 1, including tough away games in Nice, Monaco or Paris. After Sunday’s game, St-Etienne are 17th, three points off the relegation zone and Nîmes in 18th.
As for Saliba, his game was fairly average. He showed a good capacity to go forward and his pace was sometimes useful against Kalu. However nothing extraordinary happened, and his reaction on the opener could have probably been better.
During the game, Saliba touched the ball 77 times, lost it five times, had one shot, made 68 passes with a completion rate of 93% and he also did one tackle and one interception.
Saliba interview comments
After the game, Saliba talked to the press: “On Bordeaux’s goal, I am jumping and I feel like he’s pushing me. It is not enough for the referee to blow his whistle.
“We should have scored in first-half. We did not manage to be lethal, however, we managed to react. We’re a little disappointed.”