An incredible match at the Stade de la Mosson saw Rene Girard's men recover to within a whisker of victory yet fritter it away
When Younes Belhanda put them ahead from the penalty spot, it seemed that they would do just that, but a quick leveller from Thomas Khalenberg drew the Annecy club level. Though Montpellier dominated the second half, an excellent counter allowed Kevin Berigaud to score, although Olivier Giroud drew the game level. Deep in stoppage time, Souleymane Camara missed a penalty kick and four red cards were brandished, including to Younes Belhanda, as the game finished in a miserable manner for the Ligue 1 leaders.
From the first minute of the game, there was a real vibrancy about Montpellier’s play, and on several occasions Stephane Andersen in the visiting net was called into action. Karim Ait Fana and Younes Belhanda were particularly active, though it was a sweeping volley from Giroud that most threatened the visitors.
Evian seemed to have found a foothold in the game when a penalty was awarded against them as Andersen flattened Giroud as he tried to punch clear a cross, and there was real insolence in the way that Belhanda clipped the penalty home.
The Stade de la Mosson was quickly silenced by Evian’s riposte. A long ball forward was expertly knocked down by Saber Khelifa for Khalenberg to run onto a slide a lovely finish past the exposed Geoffrey Jourdren.
After the break, Montpellier dominated matters but found Andersen in excellent form. Giroud, meanwhile, was not having his best day in front of goal, allowing shots to fly off target and making poor decisions when in good areas. Meanwhile, the introduction of Souleymane Camara had added a physical threat for Evian to cope with, and the Senegal international would be one of the reasons they looked so strong.
A goal for the visitors did not look in the script, yet a magnificent sweeping counterattack allowed them to go ahead. Cedric Barbosa, who was magnificent against his former club, latched onto a fine diagonal pass before crossing low for Berigaud to score.
Montpellier controlled the game thereafter and drew level when Giroud converted into an empty net as Younes Belhanda broke the offside trap to lay a goal on a play.
Camara nearly won the game with a spectacular diving header, but it was his saved penalty in stoppage time after wonderful skill from Remy Cabella that will linger long in the memory. The attacker could be excused his miss, as he waited for five minutes to take the kick as the teams brawled on the field, leading to the expulsion of Belhanda, Cedric Mongongu, Gregory Lacombe and Saber Khelifa, the latter two not even being involved on the park at the time.
It was an unsavoury end to a terrific match, and it leaves Montpellier potentially facing the rest of the season without arguably their great talent. They lead PSG by six points in the race for the French crown, but Les Parisiens have a game in hand against Saint-Etienne at home on Wednesday night.