Renovated EURO venue Stade Geoffroy Guichard staged AS Saint-Étienne's biggest European game in years as around 36,000 watched them play FC Internazionale Milano.
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With its facelift ahead of UEFA EURO 2016 almost complete, Stade Geoffroy Guichard welcomed a crowd of almost 36,500 on Thursday as AS Saint-Étienne played host to FC Internazionale Milano.
Not since the visit of Hamburger SV, then one of the pre-eminent teams in Germany, for a UEFA Cup third round tie in December 1980 had the stadium accommodated such distinguished continental opposition.
Many of the supporters in attendance last night were too young to remember that evening almost 34 years ago when Les Verts completed a 6-0 aggregate success at Le Chaudron (the cauldron), which, as part of the renovation programme, has had its two ends restructured, roof reconfigured and four corners closed in. A new media centre was also used for the first time on Thursday.
St-Étienne's supporter groups – the Magic Fans situated behind one goal and the Green Angels the other – provided a lively soundtrack to the 1-1 Group F draw, taking turns to stand up and roar on the ten-time Ligue 1 champions.
Their output was incessant, particularly when St-Étienne were struggling to muster a response to Dodô's opener just after the half-hour. Then came the relief, the equaliser from Moustapha Bayal Sall, five minutes after the restart – Christophe Galtier's side's first goal in four UEFA Europa League matches.
The Caldron had reached boiling point and might have simmered over if Ricky van Wolfswinkel had converted a late chance. Still, with four points from as many games, St-Étienne are firmly in contention for a spot in the round of 32.
That will please the club's celebrated former Netherlands forward Johnny Rep, who expressed his disbelief that the revamped arena is the same stadium in which he shone while winning one league title during a four-year spell at St-Étienne lasting until 1983. Outside, long after full time, fans reminisced about their experience of the night the Nerazzurri came to Stade Geoffroy Guichard. They feel proud that their city will be an important staging post for Le Rendez-Vous in less than two years' time: UEFA EURO 2016.