Title hopefuls held at Ajaccio
St Etienne can only manage goalless draw on their travels
Last Updated: 30/11/12 10:35pm
Max Gradel: Was unable to force a breakthrough
A goalless draw at struggling Ajaccio was enough to lift St Etienne up to second in the Ligue 1 standings on Friday night.
Both teams had their chances, but ASSE will be happier with a result that extends their unbeaten run to 10 matches and moves them two points behind leaders Lyon.
Ajaccio, meanwhile, have won just once in their last eight fixtures and sit two points above the relegation zone.
Despite their run of poor form, it was the hosts who made the better start and forced the first save after 12 minutes with Stephane Ruffier turning away an angled drive from Chahir Belghazouani.
St Etienne were made to wait 10 more minutes for their first opening. Max-Alain Gradel sparked the move with a cross from the left which produced a testing volley from Romain Hamouma and a fine save from Ajaccio goalkeeper Francisco Ochoa.
Ruffier then returned to the action five minutes later, diving low to keep out a 25-yard shot from Mehdi Sbaa as the home side threatened once more.
And Adrian Mutu had another good chance for Ajaccio five minutes before the interval, with the Romanian striker getting on the end of a neat pass from Samuel Bouhours before Ruffier again intervened.
Gradel tried to give St Etienne the advantage early in the second half but directed his 30-yard free-kick narrowly over the crossbar.
Another opening followed for Ajaccio after 65 minutes. Sigamary Diarra supplied a cross into the area which was headed over the target by Belghazouani.
Ochoa did well to get down low and block a left-footed shot from Renaud Cohade moments later as St Etienne pressed for the opening goal.
But it was Ajaccio who came closest to snatching the points in stoppage time when Belghazouani saw his snap-shot from 20 yards cleared off the line by Loic Perrin.
French Ligue 1
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