Montpellier clear, Rennes on the rise

A hat-trick from newly capped French forward Olivier Giroud gave Montpellier a 3-1 win at Sochaux that provisionally took Rene Girard's side three points clear in Ligue 1.

Giroud toed home a goal-bound shot from John Utaka to put the visitors ahead in the 50th minute, but substitute Abdoul Camara appeared to have rescued a point for Sochaux when he prodded in an 84th-minute equaliser.

Giroud immediately restored Montpellier's lead, though, with a clipped right-footed effort from the edge of the box before completing his hat-trick by deftly lifting the ball past Sochaux goalkeeper Teddy Richert.

"I don't know if it's funny that we're first, but it's good," said Montpellier coach Girard. "The risk would be if we started to make less effort, but I don't think that's the lads' state of mind. We have to keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away, because we could ruin things very quickly in one or two matches."

Giroud's treble also took the 25-year-old three goals clear of nearest rival Kevin Gameiro of Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the scoring charts. Gameiro and PSG will hope to recover top spot at arch rivals Marseille on Sunday evening, when Antoine Kombouare's side will be bidding to pile on the misery for Olympique Marseille after their damaging UEFA Champions League loss to Olympiacos.

I don't know if it's funny that we're first, but it's good.
Rene Girard, Montpellier coach

Julien Feret was the inspiration for Rennes as they saw off a fightback from Evian to register a 3-2 home win that lifted them up to third. 

The former Nancy playmaker broke the deadlock with a superb solo goal in the tenth minute, only for Evian to equalise through Cedric Barbosa and then go ahead through on-loan Danish international Daniel Wass. 

A Feret pass paved the way for Youssouf Hadji to equalise in the 77th minute, however, and the midfielder gave Rennes the points from the penalty spot three minutes from time after a handball by Olivier Sorlin. The Bretons' evening was only soured by a red card shown to defender Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik for an altercation with Saber Khelifa.

Toulouse moved up to fourth with a 2-0 win at home over Valenciennes, with Saint-Etienne climbing one place to seventh by beating bottom side Ajaccio 3-1.

Nancy, 1-0 victors at PSG last weekend, were brought down to earth in a 2-1 loss at home to Dijon, but Bordeaux dragged themselves out of the relegation zone as Yoan Gouffran and Anthony Modeste scored in a 2-0 defeat of Caen.