Paris: Montpellier have been crowned Ligue 1 champions for the first time in their history after a 2-1 victory over Auxerre at the Stade de l`Abbe-Deschamps.
It looked as if MHSC would fall at the final hurdle when Olivier Kapo headed the home side ahead but John Utaka restored parity before the second half was over. After that early scare and despite some time-consuming stoppages in play, Utaka managed to cap a disjointed evening with his second, and the championship goal.
Rene Girard`s side knew they just needed to avoid defeat to secure the title and began in a competent manner, playing fluid attacking football from the outset.
In the fifth minute Garry Bocaly slipped a pass through to Olivier Giroud who beat the offside trap. He rounded the keeper but was forced to cross from an acute angle and Willy Boly headed away.
Moments later Remy Cabella fired narrowly wide but the visitors should really have gone ahead in the 16th minute. The 22-year-old threaded a pass through to Souleymane Camara but his weak effort was smothered by Olivier Sorin in a one-on-one situation.
Their indecisiveness in front of goal was punished when Kapo nodded the hosts into the lead from a Roy Contout corner with 21 minutes on the clock.
The visitors showed tremendous character as they refused to lose their composure and continued to press Auxerre high up the pitch. It paid dividends just after the half-hour mark when Camara got in behind on the right and played the ball into the six-yard box for Utaka to tap in.
Within minutes of the second half commencing the referee ordered both sets of players off the pitch after a section of l`AJA fans protested against the club`s board by throwing tennis balls and toilet paper on to the field of play.
After a lengthy delay the players reemerged from the changing rooms and MHSC`s momentum seem to have suffered as a result. Giroud failed to make decent contact with an Utaka cross inside the area before Anthony Le Tallec saw a great effort from 20 yards saved by Geoffrey Jourden.
The visitors were by no means safe and hearts were in mouths when Delvin Ndinga rifled Le Tallec`s knock down at goal, but Jourden was well positioned to parry the ball away from danger.
There was another prolonged suspension in the 72nd minute as a flare was thrown onto the pitch but play eventually continued with riot police moving into the stands to eject the offending supporters.
The break served to fire up the visitors and after Sorin saved well from Giroud he soon made a hash of clearing corner which lead to Montpellier`s winner. Utaka chested the ball down before turning Stephane Grichting and drilling an effort into the bottom corner.
Victory meant that Paris Saint-Germain`s 2-1 win over Lorient was irrelevant and Carlo Ancelotti`s side therefore finished the season in second position, three points adrift of Montpellier, who could celebrate a maiden title win.
First Published: Monday, May 21, 2012, 14:11