Fri, Dec 23, 2011 - Page 18 News List

PSG in the lead as Montpellier slip up

DOUBLE GOOD NEWS:The capital team’s win against Saint Etienne came amid widespread rumors the team would sign Beckham in next month’s transfer window

AFP, PARIS

Mathieu Bodmer, left, and Mohamed Sissoko, bottom, of Paris Saint-Germain challenge Bakary Sako of Saint Etienne in their Ligue 1 soccer match at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne, France, on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Montpellier ended the first half of the season on a low note with a 4-2 loss at Evian on Wednesday in a result that let Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) claim the kudos of going into the recess as “winter champions.”

On the day that Qatari-backed PSG were reported in the local media to have secured the services of David Beckham in next month’s transfer window, the capital side eked out a 1-0 win at Saint Etienne. No official statement of Beckham’s move has been made.

Mathieu Bodmer helped PSG into an ultimately decisive 32nd-minute lead when in a goalmouth scramble his header hit the left post with Saint Etienne goalkeeper Stephan Ruffier fumbling in vain to stop the ball crossing his line.

Ruffier was “awarded” an own goal for his trouble as PSG secured the luxury of looking down on their rivals at Christmas for the first time since 1996 to 1997.

The hard-earned result lifted them up to 40 points, three clear of the surprise packages of the campaign so far, Montpellier.

Despite losing some of their edge, this Evian reverse came on the back of defeat to Valenciennes and a 1-1 draw with Toulouse, the Provencal side have won 11 and drawn four to sit second heading into next year.

Defending champions Lille ended the first half of their title defense with a 4-4 stalemate against strugglers Nice to leave the northern side four points off the pace in third.

Former serial champions Lyon are one point back in fourth after coming unstuck 1-0 at midtable Valenciennes.

Rennes, 1-0 winners over Bordeaux, are fourth, with Marseille, who had such a wretched start to their campaign, having broken into the top five on Tuesday with a 3-1 victory at Nancy.

At home, Montpellier twice gave away the lead against resilient opposition in the shape of promoted side Evian.

After a scoreless first half, Younes Belhanda put the hosts in control two minutes after the break, only for Cedric Barbosa to level for Evian five minutes later.

France international Olivier Giroud had Montpellier back in front immediately after, but goals from Saber Khlifa, Cedric Cambon and Brice Dja Djedje in the space of just six minutes did it for Montpellier.

For Giroudm, that took his tally up to 13 for the campaign, one more than his haul over all of last season.

However, that was scant consolation for him.

“It was a mass drowning, there were too many defensive errors, we couldn’t hope for better this evening,” he said. “We’re frustrated because we led twice and we weren’t able to control the match.”

One of Lille’s favorite adopted sons, former Liverpool star Joe Cole, was among the scorers for the champions, who looked to be heading for a draw only for Nice’s Francois Clerc to grab the points with the winner in the third minute of injury time.

Lyon came away with nothing from their visit to Valenciennes when Aly Cissoko put the ball into his own net just before the half hour in what could be his last match for the seven-time former titleholders.

This result ended a sequence of four straight wins for Lyon.

Rennes will go into the break feeling on good terms with themselves. Having mustered a mere one point from the last nine on offer, they came away with three against Bordeaux thanks to Jires Kembo’s free-kick.

Down at the foot of the table, bottom-side Ajaccio proved they weren’t about to give up their topflight status without a fight, coming away from their visit to Sochaux with a 2-0 win, only their third of the season, to put them on 15 points, three behind Sochaux and Nancy.

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