Delort scores twice as Nice wins to move into fourth in France

Nice's Andy Delort applauds during the French Cup quarter final soccer match between Nice and Marseille at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, France, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Daniel Cole/AP)

PARIS (AP) — Striker Andy Delort scored twice as Nice rallied from 2-0 down to beat struggling Saint-Etienne 4-2 and move into fourth place in the French league on Wednesday.

The fourth spot secures automatic entry into next season's Europa League and Nice is one point above fifth-place Rennes, which lost 2-1 at French Cup winner Nantes on Wednesday.

The matches were held Wednesday because Nantes and Nice met in the French Cup final on Saturday, with Nantes winning 1-0 for its first trophy in 21 years.

Delort's two goals took him to 15 in the league, and Nice is two points behind third-place Monaco for the Champions League qualifying rounds. Second place secures automatic qualification and is held by Marseille.

Things started badly for Nice when striker Denis Bouanga put Saint-Etienne ahead in the 11th minute and midfielder Zaydou Youssouf made it 2-0 for the visitors in first-half stoppage time.

After defender Melvin Bard pulled one back in the 52nd, Delort struck in the 60th and 62nd to turn the game before Algeria midfielder Hicham Boudaoui added the fourth in the 80th.

Saint-Etienne sits in 18th place _ a promotion-relegation playoff spot _ three points away from safety with two matches remaining.

Brittany-based Rennes is the second-highest scoring team in the league with 78 goals; PSG has 81.

Things started well when midfielder Flavien Tait put Rennes ahead in the 32nd, only for striker Kalifa Coulibaly to equalize for Nantes on the stroke of halftime.

The winner came from an unusual source as central defender Nicolas Pallois volleyed in superbly from near the penalty spot for ninth-place Nantes.

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