A tempestuous derby between bitter rivals was halted for the second time following a pitch invasion and finally ended with Lyon crushing Saint-Etienne 5-0 in the French league on Sunday.
Referee Clement Turpin stopped the game for the second time in the 84th minute. Lyon forward Nabil Fekir appeared to spark the invasion from angry home fans by taking off his shirt and raising it in front of them after his second goal of the night.
It mirrored Lionel Messi’s gesture after scoring twice when Barcelona won away to Real Madrid last season. But not the same outcome.
Faced with the humiliation of its heaviest defeat to Lyon, and Fekir’s goading, Saint-Etienne’s fans vented their fury. Objects were thrown and fans descended from the stands, while Turpin led the players away and riot police sprinted onto the field to restore order. After more than 30 minutes, the game resumed for the last few minutes.
Fekir, who was regularly fouled, made it 11 league goals in 11 games. But even his coach, Bruno Genesio, disapproved of his gesture.
“It’s a shame. The best thing is to win the match. There’s no point rubbing it in and provoking,” Genesio said on Canal Plus television. “We wouldn’t have liked it if it was the other way around. You can’t do things like that.”
Fekir said he hadn’t meant any harm. “I celebrated my goal that way. There’s no nastiness in it,” he said. “Maybe it’s not the right thing to do as it was 5-0. But it’s just football.”
He also said: “Do I apologise? No, I don’t regret my gesture.”
Fekir was on the receiving end of a violent two-footed lunge from Leo Lacroix that saw the home side’s defender sent off in the 47th.
The win moved Lyon one point above Marseille and up to third place. With Fekir and Memphis Depay in such form, Lyon can challenge for a top-two finish. Lyon is three points behind Monaco and seven behind league leader Paris Saint-Germain.
The match was halted for the first time moments after it started. The large number of flares lit by home fans at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard created a thick curtain of smoke that cloaked the field.
With visibility so poor, Turpin took the players off for six minutes.
When the game resumed, Depay settled Lyon’s nerves in the Rhone derby after 11 minutes with a cool finish into the bottom right corner for his sixth league goal this season.
With the home defense backing off, Fekir smacked home a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area in the 25th.
Just after the break, Lacroix’s brutal challenge had Fekir writhing on the ground and sparked a brief melee between players.
The 24-year-old Fekir is finding his best form, two years after a serious knee injury when playing for France halted his progress.
Lyon’s other goals came from striker Mariano Diaz, a summer signing from Real Madrid, and winger Bertrand Traore.
Fourth-place Marseille won 5-0 at home against Caen in a match where the home fans turned on defender Patrice Evra.
Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo sent Marseille ahead just before the break and winger Florian Thauvin made it 2-0 just after.
Attacking midfielder Morgan Sanson put Marseille made it 3-0, before Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou and Thauvin completed the rout.
Before the game, home fans at Stade Velodrome displayed banners making it clear to Patrice Evra that he is longer welcome at the club. Marseille suspended Evra on Friday after the left back aimed a kick at the head of a Marseille supporter during a Europa League match in Portugal.
One banner, in French, read: “Love for the jersey. Respect for supporters. Professionalism. Is that too much to ask?”
BALOTELLI SEES RED
Mario Balotelli got the winning penalty and was sent off late on as Nice secured a much-needed 1-0 win against Dijon.
It was the Italian striker’s sixth goal in eight league games and moved Nice up to 15th place.
Balotelli sent goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet the wrong way from the spot in the 40th minute. He was shown a straight red with one minute left for a tackle from behind, the third time he has been sent off in France since joining last season from Liverpool.
It appeared a harsh decision and he at first stayed on the field to protest referee Olivier Thual’s decision.
Striker Nicolas Pepe scored twice and midfielder Fares Bahlouli got the other goal as Lille secured a crucial 3-0 win at Metz.