Montpellier wins French title for first time
PARIS (AP) -Montpellier won the French league title for the first time after beating Auxerre 2-1 away on Sunday in a chaotic match which saw the players twice leave the field after crowd disturbances.
John Utaka scored in each half as Montpellier finished three points ahead of rival Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG piled on the pressure by winning 2-1 at Lorient, with the game at already-relegated Auxerre lagging behind after the match had been interrupted for the first time, just two minutes into the second half.
Montpellier fans were then left with an agonizing wait with the score at 1-1 as referee Said Ennjimi took the players off for a second time when Auxerre fans threw flares onto the field.
Riot police had to remove Auxerre supporters behind one of the goals before the match could resume. Utaka then scored his second goal in the 76th minute.
"We're champions of France!'' top scorer Oliver Giroud screamed as he was mobbed by fans. Long-serving club president Louis Nicollin threw himself into the arms of coach Rene Girard as the players celebrated in the dressing room.
"With all the delays you didn't know what was happening, but honestly I think we deserved to win the title,'' Girard said. "It was a close fight until the end.''
Thousands of fans packing the Place de la Comedie in Montpellier's city center erupted with joy at the final whistle.
"There are no words to describe this feeling, it's so strong,'' Montpellier goalie Geoffrey Jourdren said. "It's amazing that a club that wasn't supposed to win anything finishes as the French champion.''
PSG, meanwhile, lost out in its bid to win the title for the first time since 1994 despite spending over ?100 million ($132 million) on players.
PSG sacked coach Antoine Kombouare halfway through the season, replacing him with Carlo Ancelotti, even though PSG was three points clear of Montpellier at the top of the league at that stage.
"We had a good season, we were just winning that little thing we needed to win the league,'' Ancelotti said. "With all the changes we made, second place isn't bad. I think it will be a good experience for the future. We can look ahead to the future with confidence.''
Lille finished in third place, with winger Eden Hazard scoring a hat trick in his last game for the club in a 4-1 rout of Nancy. Hazard, who is rated at ?33 million ($43.5 million) and has announced his departure, has been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea in the Premier League.
Hazard was given a standing ovation when he was substituted with one minute left. He scored 20 league goals this season and was presented with an award as the league's best passer for his 15 assists.
Caen and Dijon lost and were relegated with Auxerre.
Montpellier started brightly as striker Souleymane Camara went clean through in the 17th, but goalkeeper Olivier Sorin spread himself well to save his shot.
Auxerre stunned Montpellier when Olivier Kapo headed in a corner in the 20th.
That prompted joyous scenes on the PSG bench, but the cheers were shortlived as striker Kevin Monnet-Paquet caught PSG's defense cold when he got behind center-half Alex and nodded past goalie Salvatore Sirigu.
Shortly after Lorient had taken the lead, Montpellier equalized when Camara broke down the left and set up Utaka for a tap-in.
The match was then held up after Auxerre fans, angry at last weekend's relegation, threw tennis balls, fruit and toilet paper onto the field. Jourdren went over and spoke with the fans in a bid to calm them down.
The players were taken off the field by Ennjimi and kept in the dressing room for nearly 10 minutes.
With Montpellier's players still waiting for their match to resume, playmaker Javier Pastore bundled the ball in from close range to draw PSG level in the 61st.
Thiago Motta headed in Nene's corner with 15 minutes remaining to test the nerves of Montpellier's players, who again had to leave the field when flares were thrown onto the field, prompting riot police to form a protective line and eventually move the fans out.
"I was really scared the game wouldn't finish, it wasn't easy for the referee as there was so much at stake,'' Montpellier defender Henri Bedimo said.
In Sunday's other results, it was: Evian 0, Brest 1; Lyon 3, Nice 4; Rennes 5, Dijon 0; Saint-Etienne 2, Bordeaux 3; Sochaux 1, Marseille 0, Toulouse 0, Ajaccio 2, and Valenciennes 3, Caen 1.
Cheick Diabate grabbed two goals and Yoann Gouffran scored the other as Bordeaux secured fifth place and a spot in the Europa League.
Corsican side Ajaccio stayed up thanks to locally-born midfielder Johan Cavalli's two first-half goals, while Sochaux also avoided the drop courtesy of midfielder Ryad Boudebouz's spectacular curling shot.
Lyon raced into a 2-0 lead through top scorer Lisandro Lopez and Jimmy Briand, but relegation-battlers Nice went into the break level through goals from defender Fabian Monzon and midfielder Kafoumba Coulibaly.
A blunder from France goalie Hugo Lloris gave Nice the lead a 3-2 lead as he punched a cross into his own net, but Briand's second of the night made it 3-3 until Esmael Goncalves made it 4-3 for Nice.