Giroud puts Montpellier into Cup final
Montpellier moved to within one win of their first trophy in over 20 years on Tuesday as they beat ten-man Paris Saint Germain in their French League Cup semi-final.
A header by Olivier Giroud four minutes from the end of extra time handed Montpellier - who won the second of their French Cups in 1990 - a date in the final at the Stade de France against either Auxerre or holders Marseille, who play on Wednesday.
PSG still entertain hopes of three trophies as they lie second in the title race and are involved in the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League and the French Cup but the sending off of Clement Chantome late in the second-half proved instrumental in their interest being ended in this competition.
PSG coach Antoine Kombouare was left frustrated. "It is a huge disappointment, because I feel that we performed really well," he said. "But in football to win you have to score."
His Montpellier counterpart Rene Girard said that his side had shown that they were more than capable of taking on the richer clubs. "The boys showed this evening what they are capable of," he said. "It is an exceptional moment for us, the small guys from the provinces… to be contesting a final, against whomever it might be, is truly beautiful!"
Montpellier had the best chances of the first-half, Giroud having two of the opportunities against a visiting PSG side, who were seeking to end an 11 year winless run in Montpellier. His first, a half-volley in the 20th minute just missed the target, whilst the 24-year-old striker - who rejected an offer from Scottish giants Celtic to join Montpellier from Tours last year - later beat former France international keeper Gregory Coupet but the ball went wide of the far post.
Coupet was at his best when he pulled off a stunning fingertip save from Chilean midfielder Marco Estrada 12 minutes from the break, the former Lyon star turning the ball away for a corner.
The visitors had few chances to show for a high workrate, French international striker Guillaume Hoarau wasting two of them whilst former international Ludovic Giuly went close. Hoarau, who has broken into the national side since their chaotic FIFA World Cup™ finals campaign, also had their best chance in the second-half. He was put clean through and bearing down on goal only for young Moroccan defender Abdelhamid El Kaoutari to produce a superb tackle in the penalty area to dispossess him.
The balance of the game, though, shifted towards the hosts three minutes from time as Chantome was red carded for his second booking of the match when he clattered into Garry Bocaly. However, it was PSG who had the clearest chance of the first period of extra time as Hoarau once again was released but the striker made a hash of his shot and sliced it wide.
Giroud, though, remained the greatest threat for the hosts and he was unfortunate not to get a penalty in the second-half of extra time as his shot was seemingly blocked by defender Mamadou Sakho's arm but the referee failed to spot the infraction. Giroud was to have his revenge soon afterwards as he rose to head past a stationary Coupet and spark wild celebrations among the 20,000 odd spectators.