Andy Delort got the only goal of the game as Montpellier Hérault SC beat AS Saint Etienne 1-0 at the Stade de la Mosson to close to within three points of LOSC, who occupy the fourth and final European qualification spot.
Saint-Etienne made the 150-mile journey south to Montpellier with their hosts in a significantly more northerly position in the table, Les Verts having lost their previous two games and some fans even calling for Claue Puel's head. The visitors were the brighter of the two teams early on, though. Loïs Diony's flying header landed just the wrong side of Geronimo Rulli's post to make it 1-0 (9') before the Aregentine shot-stopper had to race off his line to stop Miguel Trauco in his tracks (19). It was Montpellier who opened the scoring, however, when Delort headed home Junior Sambia's cross for his ninth goal of the season (25'). Gaëtan Laborde then forced a save from Rulli's opposite number Stéphane Ruffier (31') before Sambia was given his marching orders for a foul on Denis Bouanga (41').
Montpellier make sure
Sensing a chance to take advantage of his side's numerical superiority, Puel sent winger Franck Honorat on for the more defensively-minded Yvann Maçon (51') before Michel Der Zakarian responded in kind, bolstering his midfield by replacing Jordan Ferri with the available again Joris Chotard (62'). It looked like ASSE might get the better of the tactical battle when Diony volleyed Ryad Boudebouz's cross towards the Montpellier goal, but again Rulli was equal to the threat (68'). On the one occasion Rulli was beaten, again following a delivery from former Montpellier favourite Boudebouz, Wesley Fofana steered his header wide (82') and it ended 1-0 to the hosts.
THE PLAYER: Geronimo Rulli
Delort may have got the goal but Montpellier had Rulli to thank for giving them the platform to take all three points, even when they were short-handed. On loan from Real Sociedad until the end of the season, the Argentina international has already rendered Benjamin Lecomte, now of AS Monaco, a distant memory, and MHSC should be delighted they insisted on a clause to make the deal permanent at the end of the season.
THE STAT: 33
Delort has now been involved in 33 goals since joining Montpellier from Toulouse FC, initially on loan, in the summer of 2018. No player outside of champions Paris Saint-Germain has been as prolific over the period.