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Ait-Fana takes Montpellier to brink of title

13 May 2012 22:46:52

Ait-Fana takes Montpellier to brink of title

A dramatic injury-time goal from Karim Ait-Fana gave Montpellier a 1-0 win over Lille on Sunday that took the Ligue 1 leaders to within a point of their first ever French league title.

Ait-Fana tucked home Olivier Giroud's cut-back in the 94th minute at Stade de la Mosson to preserve Montpellier's three-point lead over second-placed Paris Saint-Germain, who beat Rennes 3-0 courtesy of a Nene hat-trick.

On next Sunday's final day, Montpellier will travel to Auxerre -- who were relegated after a 3-0 loss at Marseille -- needing a draw to finish above PSG, who visit Lorient.

"We kept believing until the end and it paid off," Montpellier coach Rene Girard told Canal+.

"What the boys have done is fabulous. We'll keep going until the end."

Montpellier created the first chance of note against defending champions Lille, but Jamel Saihi lifted the ball over the bar from eight yards after being teed up by Giroud.

A floodlight failure meant that the second half began five minutes late, by which time PSG were already 1-0 up at home to Rennes.

Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau produced a finger-tip save to touch over a Giroud header in the 53rd minute, while Eden Hazard worked Geoffrey Jourdren in the other goal with a dipping free-kick.

Montpellier's lead had been cut to a point at full-time in PSG's game but Ait-Fana's last-gasp intervention took Girard's side to within touching distance of the Ligue 1 trophy and sealed Lille's elimination from the title race.

Jeremy Menez dragged a shot across goal and wide on the half hour at Parc des Princes and PSG had to wait for the 47th minute to take the lead, with Menez racing down the left and cutting the ball back for Nene to sweep home.

The Brazilian's second goal, a superb free-kick, arrived in the 58th minute and he completed his first ever Ligue 1 hat-trick seven minutes later with an emphatic penalty after Menez had been tripped by Rennes defender Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik.

The goal allowed Nene to draw level with Giroud on 21 goals at the top of the goalscoring charts, while PSG are now assured of direct qualification for next season's Champions League.

PSG's win allowed Bordeaux to leapfrog Rennes into fifth place -- which would give them a berth in the Europa League -- after an injury-time penalty from Yoan Gouffran gave Francis Gillot's team a 1-0 win at home to Lorient.

Rennes are a point back in seventh, alongside Saint-Etienne, who lost 3-2 at Nancy.

Auxerre were relegated for the first time since their promotion to the French elite in 1980 after their loss at Marseille left them four points from safety with one game remaining.

Second-bottom Dijon will have to win their final game of the season at Rennes after a 1-1 draw at home to Toulouse left them two points below the three sides immediately above them.

Brest, Caen and Ajaccio will all go into next Sunday's final round of games on 38 points, with Ajaccio currently in the bottom three on goal difference.

Ajaccio drew 1-1 at home to Lyon, Brest beat Valenciennes 1-0 and Caen lost 3-1 at home to Sochaux, who climbed from 17th to 15th ahead of their final game at home to Marseille.

Yoann Gourcuff's season ended in desperate fashion as he was sent off for an off-the-ball altercation in Lyon's game at Ajaccio.

Gourcuff has a slim chance of being named in Laurent Blanc's France squad for Euro 2012 on Tuesday, but Loic Remy's hopes of participating are in the balance after he went off in Marseille's win over with Auxerre with an apparent groin injury.

In the evening's other game, Evian drew 1-1 at Nice to leave the latter just a point above the drop zone.


AFP

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