A late header from John Utaka looked to have given la Paillade all three points against the big-spending capital outfit, but the fought back to earn a draw and stay topA dramatic late leveller from Guillaume Hoarau gave Paris Saint-Germain a 2-2 draw in their top-of-the-table Ligue 1 clash with Montpellier.
Surprisingly, it was Rene Girard’s side who made the better start to the game, but PSG moved into the lead when Alex lashed a fearsome free kick into the net from 25 yards out. The visiting side responded swiftly, taking advantage of a napping home defence to level through a Younes Belhanda header, and they would do likewise late on through John Utaka. This was not to be decisive, though, as Hoarau struck with less than two minutes of normal time remaining.
Belhanda had been a chief protagonist early in proceedings, when Montpellier’s vibrant attacking play was the dominant feature. Releasing Utaka with a fine pass, the Nigerian cut inside and drew a save from Salvatore Sirigu, who was sharply up to block from Olivier Giroud on the rebound.
This was to be the visitors’ most telling moment in the opening 25 minutes, in which they pinned back the home side, forcing a series of corners but rarely seriously threatening their goal.
With the quality at the disposal of the hosts, it was almost inevitable that they would start to get something of a foothold in the game, and their best chances fell to the energetic Kevin Gameiro, who shot straight at Geoffrey Jourdren before firing just over after Jeremy Menez had robbed Hilton.
It took a set piece to finally break Montpellier, who had not conceded this year previously. Nene touched the ball to Alex, who got terrific power and movement on a shot that left the visiting goalkeeper motionless.
PSG should have made it to the break ahead, but they were sleeping as Hilton proved the unlikely source of a cross that was headed home by the completely unmarked Belhanda.
Openings in the second half were fewer, as neither side really wanted to gamble. Maxwell and Javier Pastore, making his return from injury from the bench, prodded PSG’s best initial chances wide from tight angles.
Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, provided the danger for Montpellier, but it would be Utaka who headed the vital goal nine minutes from time, with the centre forward delivering an inch-perfect cross for his offensive colleague to convert.
Montpellier might have thought the game was won, but they would be denied at the death as some fancy footwork from Jeremy Menez allowed him to cross low for Hoarau to touch in.
Indeed, the hosts nearly snatched all three points, but Maxwell shot into the side-netting in the 90th minute.
Hoarau’s late leveller means the status quo in Ligue 1 is maintained, with PSG leading Montpellier by a sole point, but they know now they have a real fight on their hands for the title.