Lille lose, title race thrown open
Younes Belhanda’s late winner for Montpellier at home to Lille has helped the chasing pack close in on the Ligue 1 leaders at the end of Week 24. It was LOSC’s first league defeat since October 24.
The last French team to beat leaders Lille was Montpellier, although that was in the quarter-finals of the League Cup last November. A home loss to champions in Marseille in Week 10 was the last time Rudi Garcia’s side had failed to take anything from a Ligue 1 encounter.
The early signs were encouraging for Lille, just three minutes on the clock when Lille’s Eden Hazard sped down the left and produced a lovely pass for Gervinho. The Ivorian’s finish wasn’t of the same quality.
Despite leading striker Olivier Giroud being suspended Montpellier had the better of the chance count prior to half-time. Marco Estrada, the Chilean international midfielder, has a hammer of a left boot and he tested Mickaël Landreau in the Lille goal with a free-kick.
Regular Montpellier right-back Garry Bocaly was another home player suspended so Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa put in a shift there and his surging runs were a feature of the opening period. He wanted a penalty under Franck Béria’s challenge. Referee Tony Chapron was unconvinced. Béria certainly had hold of the youngster’s shirt and the decision could easily have gone against the visitors.
Usually the Lille attack flows. In the second half Gervinho dispossessed Emir Spahic and fed Tulio De Melo but the big Brazilian’s scuffed shot lacked the power to test Geoffrey Jourdren.
Length of pitch move
The Montpellier goal was a length of the pitch move. Ludovic Obraniak, on the attack for Lille, was robbed of the ball by Romain Pitau. Younes Belhanda’s touch let him down but got the ball back off Souleymane Camara. The Moroccan international enjoyed more luck with the finish after a solo run as it took a slight deflection off Béria. Belhanda produced a somersaulting celebration to cap his third strike of the season.
It was Lille’s first away defeat since losing to Lyon in Week 9, and only their second all campaign. Montpellier themselves moved back to within eight points of the leaders.
LOSC are next in action on Thursday at Dutch leaders PSV Eindhoven for the second leg of their Europa League last 32 tie. The clubs are locked at 2-2 after Lille let a two-goal lead slip in northern France last Thursday.