St Etienne squeaks past Montpellier

Montpellier, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Max-Alain Gradel's goal inside the final quarter-hour held up as the winner on Friday as St Etienne came away with a 1-0 win over Montpellier at the Stade de la Mosson.

Coming off a 3-1 loss to Rennes on Dec. 4, Les Verts had the better of the play in the first half, but both clubs rarely came close to finding the back of the net as the sides went into the intermission scoreless.

The second 45 minutes saw both clubs continue to struggle to create scoring chances, but the visitors finally broke through with 15 minutes to play when Faouzi Ghoulam served a low cross into the penalty area from the left wing. The ball made its way to Gradel, who fought off his defender and tapped the ball home at the far post.

Montpellier sent numbers forward in search of a late equalizer as the fourth official's board showed four additional minutes, but they were unable to find the goal and ended the match with zero shots on target.

The result lifts St Etienne to sixth place in Ligue 1 with 27 points, while Montpellier remains in 17th position, five points clear of the bottom three.

Defending champions Paris Saint-Germain highlight Ligue 1's weekend slate as the capital club travels to the Stade de la Route de Lorient to battles Rennes.

PSG suffered a shock first defeat of the domestic campaign 10 days ago with a 2-0 loss to Evian. But the rebounded in outstanding fashion three days later by thrashing Sochaux, 5-0, at the Parc des Princes behind two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as tallies by Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Thiago Silva.

PSG will head into Saturday's clash looking to regain their winning form after falling by a 2-1 score to Benfica on Tuesday in the Champions League. The defeat meant little however, as the club had already won its group and qualified for the knockout round of the Champions League for the second consecutive season.

Elsewhere in Ligue 1 on Saturday, Ajaccio will attempt to pull itself out of the relegation zone with a victory against Lorient, while Evian welcomes Reims to the Parc des Sports.

Newcomers Guingamp will aim for its seventh win of the season against second- place Monaco, while Nantes battles Toulouse at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

In Saturday's final fixture, 16th-place Nice will hope to climb the table with a three-point effort against Sochaux.

On Sunday, Bordeaux welcomes Valenciennes looking for an eighth win of the league campaign, Lille battles Bastia and Lyon goes for its third straight three-point effort when the club hosts Marseille at the Stade de Gerland.