Montpellier wins with late goal to keep lead

Montpellier wins with late goal to keep lead

PARIS - The Associated Press
Montpellier wins with late goal to keep lead

Montpellier forward Karim Ait Fana celebrates his stoppage-time goal against Lille in a crucial French Ligue 1 game at the Mosson Stadium in Montpellier. AFP photo

Montpellier scored in injury time to beat defending champion Lille 1-0 on May 13 and retain its three-point lead over Paris Saint-Germain, moving within one game of its first French league title. PSG kept its slim title hopes alive by routing Rennes 3-0 thanks to a hat trick from Brazilian midfielder Nene. 

Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud led a counterattack in the fourth minute of stoppage time to pull the ball back for Karim Ait Fana who slotted it into an empty net.

“When I scored, I really felt the stadium was erupting and exploding with joy,” Ait Fana said. “We made a big step toward the title tonight. But it’s not over. Let’s not forget there’s still a match against Auxerre.” Both Montpellier and PSG secured automatic qualification for the Champions League.

Meanwhile, Lille was knocked out of the title race and will finish in third place, needing to win a playoff to participate in the lucrative European competition.

“We have no regrets. We tried everything to win tonight,” Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. “We were in the title race until the 37th round. So it can only be a good season for us.” Montpellier wasted a good chance in the 23rd when Giroud fed midfielder Jamel Saihi, who fired over the bar from eight yards with the goal at his mercy. Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau saved his team in the 53rd by tipping over the bar a powerful header from Giroud in the 53rd.

In Paris, Nene opened the scoring in the 47th after winger Jeremy Menez outpaced the Rennes defense to cut the ball back for the midfielder, who shot past goalkeeper Benoit Costil.

Nene doubled the lead by sending an indirect free kick into the top corner in the 58th, and then raised his league tally to 21 goals this season by converting a penalty in the 60th after Rennes defender Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik had fouled Menez.

“Tonight we reached an important goal because qualifying for the Champions League was a very important goal for this club,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

“It will be more difficult to win the title,” Ancelotti added. “But we play to try to win the title. And today, we still have a small chance to win it.” PSG plays Lorient in the last round while Montpellier visits Auxerre. The only scenario in which PSG can win the title is a victory over Lorient combined with a loss from Montpellier.

Last-place Auxerre will be relegated after losing 3-0 to Marseille at Stade Velodrome.

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