AS Saint-Etienne held on to top spot in Group G after playing out an exciting 2-2 draw with second-placed Valencia CF in testing conditions at a snow-covered Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Brazilian forward Ilan gave St Etienne the lead twice, with contrasting first-half goals, but Valencia fought back on each occasion thanks to strikes from Fernando Morientes and substitute Nikola Žigić. The result kept the French Ligue 1 strugglers two points clear of their nearest rivals at the group summit, and might have been even better for a home team who created several good chances to win.
Valencia carved out the first opportunity of the night when David Albelda side-footed the ball wide, yet the first goal fell to Alain Perrin's men close to the half-hour. Ilan latched on to Dimitri Payet's pass through the heart of the Valencia back line and raced into the visitors' penalty area before cleverly scooping the ball over goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. The Spanish side took just four minutes to get their retaliation in, however, as the experienced Morientes pounced to turn in a low Joaquín cross from close range.
Unai Emery's charges were not off the hook so easily, though, and Ilan struck again after 44 minutes, by which time he had already had another goal ruled out. The Brazilian finished comfortably after Guaita spilled a harmless-looking centre from Geoffrey Dernis. The keeper made amends for that mistake with crucial saves early in the second half from Dernis and Kevin Mirallas, at a time when St Etienne were rampant. Guaita caught the eye in particular with a one-handed stop from Dernis, shortly after which Payet rounded the keeper but shot against the woodwork. Valencia eventually made the hosts pay for their profligacy with 18 minutes left. Substitute Miguel delivered a deep cross from the right which Asier del Horno headed back into the six-metre box where the lurking Žigić ducked to nod in the second equaliser.