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Ligue 1

  • April 7, 2012
  • • 18:00
  • • Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier
  • Referee: B. Varela
  • • Attendance: 18429

Montpellier 2-1 Sochaux: Hosts move clear at the top of Ligue 1 with comfortable victory over les Lionceaux

Rene Girard's men went three points clear at the summit, winning 2-1 over a Sochaux side who had an inspired Pierrick Cros in goal but were ultimately defeated

Montpellier moved clear at the top of Ligue 1 with a 2-1 victory over Sochaux, who remain mired in relegation worries after an intriguing game at Stade de la Mosson.

Younes Belhanda opened the scoring inside four minutes, firing in his ninth league goal of the season. Sochaux, however, equalised midway through the first period with a fine volley from Modibo Maiga.

The scoreline at the break perhaps flattered the visitors, as Montpellier were by far the dominant team, peppering the opposite keeper with shots, with second-choice youngster Pierrick Cros denying the league leaders on numerous occasions. He would eventually be beaten again just after the break through Souleymane Camara's tap-in as the hosts took all three points.

Montpellier made few changes from the side that narrowly beat Saint Etienne a fortnight ago. Cyril Jeunechamp came in for Garry Bocaly, with Marco Estrada and Camara making the starting XI. Sochaux were without veteran goalkeeper Teddy Richert, who was replaced by Cros as defender Carlao was handed a first start in more than two months.

Any question that Montpellier would be sluggish after a two-week hiatus in league action appeared to be unfounded after just four minutes. An already energetic start from the visitors saw la Paillade instigate a superb counterattack from their own half.

The ball was threaded eventually to Camara, who delivered in a curling cross which found Giroud. The top-scorer's effort was spilled by Cros, but Belhanda was on hand to direct the ball into the net with a neat finish.

Les Lionceaux issued a direct response to the setback, and eventually grabbed an equaliser after a sustained period of dominance in midfield. David Sauget moved into position on the left flank, before the captain whipped in a cross locating Maiga. The striker showed incredible poise and ability to chest the ball and loop a volley past Geoffrey Jourden.

Estrada came close to scoring just before half-time with an exquisite free kick that forced Cros into a double-fisted save, as both sides entered the interval at 1-1 in what was a typically attacking affair.

Rene Girard's men stepped up their attacking tempo in the second period, wearing away what was initially a solid Sochaux defence. Estrada fired at goal from distance, after Giroud and Belhanda both attempted unsuccessful efforts as an alert Cros was forced into action.

The 20-year-old keeper again denied the threatening Belhanda with a wonderful save, before thwarting John Utaka with a sprawling tip away from a corner. Cros, making his seventh appearance of the campaign would see his luck run out after 55 minutes.

Amid unrelenting attacking pressure from the league leaders, Belhanda sought out Utaka on the left, whose first-time curling shot was saved by the goalkeeper, before Camara tapped into an empty net to re-assert the hosts' authority, and their advantage.

Belhanda was again at the fore of things, picking out a wonderful lofted ball which bamboozled the entire Sochaux defence for Giroud, who latched onto it with his chest and fired a powerful shot which the equally impressive Cros palmed away.

A third goal wasn't required, though, as Montpellier claimed a 2-1 win to move three points clear at the top of Ligue 1, ahead of PSG who face bitter rivals Marseille on Sunday.

Girard's men play their game in hand against Didier Deschamps' side on Wednesday evening. Sochaux meanwhile, remain in the bottom three and face Dijon next weekend.