Montpellier up to 3rd place after win; Saint-Etienne draws
Montpellier has lost only once, at home to Dijon on the opening day, and has conceded just one goal at home in five games since that defeat. Montpellier leads fourth-place Marseille on goal difference after Marseille moved level on 19 points from 10 games by winning 1-0 at Nice in Sunday’s late game.
Only Paris Saint-Germain has a better defense than Montpellier, which has conceded only seven goals despite having a 41-year-old — the Brazilian Hilton — at center half.
At the other end, strikers Andy Delort and Gaetan Laborde are combining well in their first season together.
Both scored a goal on Sunday and both arrived with a point to prove: Delort after a modest five goals in 32 games for Toulouse last season, and Laborde because he was sold by Bordeaux.
Laborde did not celebrate against his former club when he headed Montpellier ahead in the 17th minute and Delort confidently stroked home a penalty in the 53rd for his fourth goal in 10 games.
Speaking on beIN Sports television after the game, Delort joked that Montpellier will be playing Champions League football “on Tuesday nights” next year. More seriously, he thinks the club can push for a top-five place.
Midfielder Morgan Sanson won it for Marseille late in the first half when he turned in a cross from impressive right back Bouna Sarr.
Striker Mario Balotelli returned to the Nice lineup but was largely ineffective against the club he was expected to join over the summer.
Nice pressured strongly near the end but left it too late.
Coached by former France and Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira, Nice is languishing in 14th place and struggling for goals after selling striker Alassane Plea to Bundesliga side Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Wahbi Khazri converted from the penalty spot after being fouled to give Saint-Etienne a fourth-minute lead. Winger Ismaila Sarr equalized in the 34th with a low shot.
Midway through the second half, lively winger Hatem Ben Arfa was brought down in the penalty area. Ben Arfa casually sent goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier the wrong way from the spot, only for his effort to clip the right post and go wide.
Saint-Etienne is in sixth spot and Rennes is 11th.