Going into this evening, nobody had any idea who would be leading the Ligue 1 table. Of course, there were many decent candidates that had their chances going into tonight’s matches.
But for at least the next 24 hours, Montpellier are going to be leading the Ligue 1 table.
While it looked like their match with Nice would end in a draw, Marco Estrada threaded a cross between two Nice defenders which found the head of Olivier Giroud inside the box, giving Montpellier the 1-o win on the road at the ever-hostile Stade de Ray.
Of course, outspoken Montpellier owner Louis Nicollin didn’t waste any time in his response to what this meant to the club.
“This is historic! Fabulous! We will be first in L1 for at least 24 hours. I went immediately to thank the players. This will not last, but what fun. I hope we will finish the season in the top ten,” Nicollin said, stating that he team earned the hard-fought win as well.
All of last year, most of us in the Ligue 1 world were asking “when is Montpellier going to start falling back to earth”? Well, they never did, and even beat out Bordeaux for the final (non-cup winning) Europa League spot.
And, after the loss of Victor Montano to Rennes and Tino Costa to Valencia, many were asking the “when will they fall back to earth” question again. And, as of right now, it looks like they are quite comfortable flying instead of falling.
Going into this season, dealing with the losses of Montano and Costa (both whom look to be comfortable at their new teams), many people didn’t expect Montpellier to pick up where they left off last year. While being a good defensive team, lead by Bosnian international captain Emir Spahic, Montpellier were not exactly an impressive team offensively.
At the start of the season, Karim Ait-Fana seemed to be the logical choice to lead the Montpellier offense. But with no goals in seven matches, Ait-Fana hasn’t been part of the Montpellier plan (even though he played all 90 minutes against Nice today). Therefore, the men that would have to lead the team offensively were three new faces. Olivier Giroud, who arrived from Tours this season, already has six goals on the season. Marco Estrada is also key to Montpellier’s game, being their new setup player for the strikers, which he proved he could do in this match against Nice.
The only player that really hasn’t played up to par has been Hasan Kabze, who came over from Rubin Kazan. So far, he has no goals and only one assist. Kabze was brought to the team because of his goal scoring ability, but he has yet to show any sign of what he has done in the past at Rubin Kazan or Galatasaray.
Therefore, does Montpellier really miss Montano and Costa? As of right now, not really. While both have had amazing Ligue 1 and 2 seasons in the past (with good consistency as well), Giroud and Estrada are showing that they have what it take the become the next powerful tandem at “Da HSC” (yeah, I made that up).
And if Kabze and Ait-Fana start scoring goals again, Montpellier might actually be in better shape than they were last year, as they have kept the core of their defense, and maybe added depth to their offense.
Still, enjoy this 1st place while it lasts, because it won’t last long.