The hosts knew that a 0-0 draw would be enough to see them through, but they did at least try to get an advantage in the game in the first half, although they failed to beat Jonas Lössl in Mainz’s goal.
Yunus Malli had a free-kick saved late in the first half, and more chances came their way in the second, but on the night Mainz just couldn’t find a breakthrough and their first Europa League campaign will end in the group stage.
Mainz on the brink
These sides drew their opening game encounter 1-1, but it’s the French side that have had the better of Group C since then, going into this match in second place with eight points. Mainz only had five, and lost their last match in the competition 6-1 to RSC Anderlecht.
The 3-1 win for Anderlecht in Azerbaijan against Gabala FK in the early kick-off meant that the German visitors really needed to win, whilst Saint-Étienne needed just a goalless draw. A score draw, with at least two goals each, would have given Mainz a chance of catching them in the final round of games.
Both sides made four changes from their weekend league games. Florentin Pogba, Pierre-Yves Polomat, Oussama Tannane and Kévin Monnet-Paque all came in from the Saint-Étienne team that lost to OGC Nice at the weekend.
There was a first Mainz start for André Ramalho since arriving on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, whilst Leon Balogun, Gäetan Bussmann and Levin Öztunali also came in from their 4-2 win over SC Freiburg.
Saint-Étienne the more comfortable
A mix-up between Stefan Bell and Jonas Lössl early on almost presented a chance to Nolan Roux, before the Mainz keeper was able to make the save. A hashed clearance meanwhile from Pogba presented Öztunali with a perfect chance at the other end, but he shot wide.
Mainz needed to score at the very least, but they were struggling to make an impact on the game and Saint-Étienne had the better chances. Tannane had a shot saved by Lössl, with Pogba heading over a corner.
Saint-Étienne goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier had barely been tested, but he came to the fore when he required just before the break. After Loïc Perrin, booked minutes earlier, took out Jhon Córdoba on the edge of the box, Yunus Malli aimed his free-kick at the top corner, but Ruffier put in a dramatic save to keep him out.
Mainz unable to get the all-important goal
Mainz showed much more intent after half-time. Malli had a shot blocked, before a cross from Öztunali was almost put into his own net by Ole Selnaes, with his blushes spared by Ruffier. The keeper then saved a shot from Öztunali himself.
Saint-Étienne though were now offering nothing, almost looking content to settle for the goalless draw to seal their progression. Mainz kept applying the pressure, with Córdoba heading a looping cross on goal, saved by Ruffier, and Onisiwo shooting wide a couple of minutes later.
Mainz would keep plugging away in the closing minutes, but the best chance fell for Saint-Étienne. A long ball was headed by Roux back to Tannane, who ran forward, beat Lössl with his shot, but agonisingly saw it bounce of the post and back across goal.
They would be left to celebrate the draw though, with the away goal scored in Germany in September giving them the advantage on the head-to-head record. Mainz’s adventure in Europe will not extend into the New Year.