Reigning champions Montpellier got their season off to a frustrating start on Friday as they could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to nine-man Toulouse.
Rene Girard’s hosts lifted their first ever league title in May, but then lost their league top scorer Olivier Giroud to Arsenal pre-season and the result was a relative lack of sharpness that saw them pay the price of two dropped points.
Nigerian striker John Utaka sent Souleymane Camara clear for the hosts in the 34th minute and he clipped home — but instead of capitalizing, Montpellier found themselves pegged back 18 minutes from time when Wissam Ben Yedder headed home from a cross by Serge Aurier.
Toulouse also drew at the Stade de la Mosson — perhaps a positive omen for Montpellier, who still went on to deprive Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) of a first title since 1984.
This time, the visitors were left hanging on grimly after they had Adrien Regattin and Serge Aurier sent off.
Montpellier had themselves played for almost an hour a man short after Tunisian star Jamel Saihi was red-carded for a foul on Francois Sirieix six minutes before the break.
“It’s a point — a bit of a shame to finish with 10 men,” a pensive Girard said afterward. “It was a tight match — but I am satisfied with the lads’ and the spirit they showed, even if we are not yet at 100 percent. It’s a rather timid return [to league action].”
Toulouse counterpart Alain Casanova said: “At 10 against 10, it was possible” to poach a win. At 10 against nine, it was more complicated. So in the end, we can say it’s a good point.”
Montpellier also lost their Champions Trophy opener, albeit on penalties, to Lyon — and Girard will doubtless be privately concerned after their failure to get their season off to a flier given that big-spenders PSG will fully expect to see off a Lorient that only just stayed up in their opener.
Even so, Montpellier may take comfort from the fact that Lorient have regularly upset PSG — including in Paris — in recent years.
Under experienced former Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti, PSG are widely expected to go one better than runners-up this time round as well as punch their weight in the Champions League after a decade on the European sidelines, given the pot of money their Qatari benefactors have made available.
In other action yesterday, last year’s champions, Lille, was to travel to former giants Saint Etienne, while Lyon were in action at Rennes.
Today, 1950s giants Reims, back in the top flight after 33 years, host a Marseille side who have lost coach Didier Deschamps to the France job and who have turned to Elie Baup, in recent years a TV pundit, but also their former coach.