Montpellier Hérault SC put the skids under AS Saint-Etienne, becoming the first team this season to beat Les Verts on their own turf with a 1-0 win on Friday courtesy of Isaac Mbenza’s first-half goal.
AS Saint-Etienne 0-1 Montpellier Hérault SC
Third at kick-off, Saint-Etienne were hoping the imposing atmosphere at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, where they were unbeaten in their opening five matches on home soil this season, would help them keep the chasing pack at bay.
Romain Hamouma’s early incursion into the Montpellier penalty box before forcing a save from Benjamin Lecomte (4′) was a clear sign of intent from Oscar Garcia’s men, who then might have gone in front through Kevin Monnet-Paquet only for Ellyes Skhiri’s timely intervention (17′).
But Montpellier, unbeaten in four and bolstered by draws with Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco, had not come to merely make up the numbers. Mbenza might have scored from a Ruben Aguilar cross (18′) before he did so, forcing the ball home at the back post after the home defence had not dealt with Nordi Mukiele’s ball into the box (22′).
Vincent Pajot twice passed up opportunities to level (25′, 38′) before Rémy Cabella then fired a shot just past a post (56′). The former Montpellier man was the central figure of the opening minutes of the second half, forcing Vitorino Hilton into a good block (60′) before going one-on-one with Lecomte and losing out (63′).
Under-worked in the home goal, Stéphane Ruffier did have to block another Mbenza effort (56′) and Hernani charged down a Stéphane Sessegnon set-piece (76′), but neither side was able to add to the scoreline as Saint-Etienne dropped down to fourth with Olympique de Marseille moving ahead of them on goals scored.
THE PLAYER: Isaac Mbenza
The Belgian forward’s tentative first season with La Paillade looks like being followed by a more fruitful one. With his second goal in as many league games, he is already just one strike shy of last season’s tally.
THE STAT: 22
Montpellier had not won in Saint-Etienne for 22 years, since a 2-0 triumph on 4 October 1995.