Super-sub Giroud hands Montpellier points
By A. Scott
Olivier Giroud came off the bench to score the goal that allowed Montpellier to go top of Ligue for 24 hours on Saturday night.
Nice 0-1 Montpellier
Giroud, who netted the only goal in last weekend’s win over Toulouse, was surprisingly left on the bench at the Stade du Ray, but he towered above Grégory Paisley to head in a cross from fellow substitute Marco Estrada with just seven minutes left and hand the visitors the points.
It was his sixth goal since signing from Tours in the summer and it was the only moment of real excitement in what was far from a classic on the Côte d’Azur.
Both sides have struggled for goals this season, but Montpellier looked the more likely side throughout this contest and ultimately deserved the three points that take them top, although they will only stay there if Lille fail to beat Monaco on Sunday.
With Giroud on the bench, Hasan Kabze led the line for René Girard’s side, while Benjamin Stambouli was a late call-up to replace captain Romain Pitau, who picked up an injury in the warm-up. Meanwhile, Nice coach Eric Roy has considerable selection problems of his own, although he was able to welcome back Renato Civelli after suspension, with Eric Mouloungui also coming in.
Chances at a premium
As the rain lashed down, the visitors started the stronger, and they tried to make the most of the conditions by testing Nice goalkeeper David Ospina from distance. The Colombian was called into action several times but looked rather shaky, and was almost caught out when he raced off his line and flapped at a through ball in front of Kabze, but the Turk’s lobbed attempt was cleared from under the bar by Civelli.
At the other end, a few threatening crosses from Anthony Mounier aside, Nice rarely looked likely in the opening period, although Kafoumba Coulibaly could have taken Les Aiglons into half-time a goal to the good. The Ivorian unleashed a superb strike from distance which Geoffrey Jourdren did well to turn over.
Danijel Ljuboja then saw a fizzing shot narrowly clear the crossbar moments after the restart, but the game began to get bogged down, with the terrible conditions beginning to take their toll.
However, just as this contest was becoming something of a damp squib and heading for a goalless finish, Girard made the decisive changes, and Estrada set up Giroud for the winner.