Montpellier claims Ligue 1 lead with win

In-form Montpellier netted three second-half goals to claim a deserved victory over lowly Ajaccio that provisionally lifts them into the top of the Ligue 1 standings.

Montpellier had won their previous six competitive matches without conceding and, although they failed to make the breakthrough in the first half, the were too good for Ajaccio and took the points thanks to goals from Younes Belhanda, Remy Cabella and top scorer Olivier Giroud.

The victory lifts Montpellier above Paris St Germain on goal difference, but the capital club can reclaim top spot when they play Nice on Sunday.

Montpellier had the better of the first-half chances but John Utaka was denied early on by impressive Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who then did well to keep out Marco Estrada’s long-range effort just after the half hour.

In between those chances, the home side saw Cabella fire a first-time volley over following a lay-off by Giroud.

Montpellier were back on the attack at the start of the second half and Ochoa was again called on to prevent Utaka from opening the scoring before Joris Marveaux sent a volley inches wide for the hosts.

A Montpellier goal had been coming but it needed a penalty to break the deadlock as the hosts took a 52nd-minute lead from the spot.

Benjamin Andre was penalised for his challenge on Bedimo and Belhanda coolly slotted home from 12 yards.

Having finally made the breakthrough, Montpellier quickly set about trying to double their lead and they made it 2-0 12 minutes later through Cabella, who drilled a right-foot shot across Ochoa after being put away by Giroud.

Two minutes after that goal Montpellier added a third to wrap the points up, Ligue 1’s leading scorer Giroud netting his 16th of the season with a superb goal as he chested down a long ball before thrashing a left-foot volley past a motionless Ochoa.