Angry fans invade pitch as 10-time French champion Saint-Etienne drop to 2nd tier

Saint-Etienne's Arnaud Nordin controls the ball during the French League One soccer match between Lille and Saint-Etienne at the Stade Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, Friday, March 11, 2022. (Michel Spingler/AP)

PARIS — Angry fans invaded the field as Saint-Etienne, one of the most storied soccer teams in France, was relegated from the top tier on Sunday after losing 5-4 on penalty kicks to Auxerre in their promotion-relegation playoff.

The second-leg game was 1-1 after 90 minutes with no goals added in extra time at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. That left the aggregate score at 2-2 after the sides also drew 1-1 in the first leg.

Saint-Etienne fans invaded the field immediately after the last penalty kick with flares being set off. Players from both teams rushed into the locker room as scores of angry fans ran across the pitch and lit flares.

L’Equipe newspaper said the supporters were then dispersed by police. No injuries were immediately reported.

Auxerre went ahead early in the second half Sunday with a goal from Hamza Sakhi before Mahdi Camara got Saint-Etienne's equalizer. In the shootout, Ryad Boudebouz missed a penalty for Saint-Etienne as Auxerre clinched its place next season in Ligue 1.

Saint-Etienne, which owns a record-tying 10 league titles, hosted the second leg as coach Pascal Dupraz’s side unsuccessfully fought relegation. It last played in the second tier in the 2004-05 season.

“We will in a short while announce important news concerning the future of the club and our own,” said Saint-Étienne shareholders Bernard Caiazzo and Roland Romeyer in a statement published just after the game on Sunday.

Auxerre finished third in the second division. The victory ended a decade-long absence from the top tier for Auxerre.

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