Khlifa hits hat trick as Evian beats Montpellier
European Football Headlines
By JEROME PUGMIRE
AP Sports Writer
PARIS (AP) Tunisia forward Saber Khlifa scored a hat trick as Evian won 3-2 at defending champion Montpellier in the French league on Saturday.
Khlifa put Evian ahead in the 30th minute when he coolly stroked the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren, but the home side led 2-1 at halftime thanks to goals from midfielder Marco Estrada and striker Souleymane Camara.
Montpellier twice hit the crossbar before Khlifa scored with two clinical finishes - in the 62nd and 89th - beating Jourdren both times with powerful curling shots.
"Conceding three goals at home is upsetting. If some of the players take themselves for world champions .... I'm disappointed and angry, we have to get back to basics," Montpellier coach Rene Girard said after the defeat that leaves his team languishing in 13th spot. "If you're not able to understand certain things playing at this level that is worrying."
Evian's caretaker coach, Pascal Dupraz, took a different view of the match.
"If Montpellier conceded three goals it's because they came up against a team and a player in a state of grace," Dupraz said. "I'm trying to restore confidence to the team before handing it over (to a new coach). Because when the directors decide to replace me, they will, and there's nothing I'll be able to do about it."
The win moved Evian out of the relegation zone.
Also Saturday, Reims moved provisionally into fourth place after another beating Nice 3-1 at home thanks to two late goals from substitute Gaetan Courtet.
Brazilian midfielder Diego Rigonato put Reims ahead in the 16th, before Argentine midfielder Dario Cvitanich leveled in the 63rd. But Courtet struck in the 86th and in injury time to seal a fourth straight home win in the league for Reims.
Earlier, Khlifa's equalizer came after a mistake from Montpellier center back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, whose misdirected headed clearance landed at the feet of Khlifa. He still had a lot to do, cushioning the ball expertly before curling it into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Montpellier pressed for a winning goal. Defender Daniel Congre had his header cleared off the line by Ghana defender Jonathan Mensah, midfielder Younes Belhanda hit the crossbar with a free kick, and substitute Gaetan Charbonnier also struck the bar.
Against the run of play, Khlifa brushed off Congre as he attacked down the left, advanced toward goal and curled the ball over Jourdren's head as he came out to thwart him.
"We have no right to lose like that, we eased up too much after halftime," Montpellier defender Benjamin Stambouli said. "We're playing pretty well but if you ease up, even for a minute or two, your opponent will take advantage. Evian is a good team and they showed that."
In Saturday's other games, it was: Bastia 3, Troyes 2; Lille 2, Ajaccio 0; Sochaux 0, Rennes 1, and Toulouse 2, Valenciennes 2.
Toulouse came back from two goals down to secure seventh place, a place and a point ahead of Valenciennes.
Valenciennes thrashed league leader Marseille 4-1 last weekend and was quickly into its stride again, with midfielders Foued Kadir and Carlos Sanchez making it 2-0 after just 14 minutes.
Toulouse midfielder Wissam Ben Yedder pulled a goal back early in the second half with his sixth league goal of the season, and winger Adrien Regattin equalized in the last minute of normal time.
Lille, the French champion two seasons ago, had not won any of its previous six matches - including two defeats in the Champions League - and recently lost captain and midfielder Rio Mavuba to a knee injury.
But forwards Nolan Roux and Ryan Mendes scored to give coach Rudi Garcia something to smile about as Lille climbed up to 10th spot.
Turkey striker Mevlut Erding hit an early goal for Rennes against Sochaux, which remains in the relegation zone along with Nancy and last-place Troyes.
Troyes twice came back from behind thanks to two goals from Brazilian striker Marcos, and then had defender Fabrice N'Sakala and Brazilian midfielder Thiago sent off.
But veteran forward Toifilou Maoulida finally broke Ajaccio's resistance in the 87th minute as Bastia climbed out of the relegation zone.
On Sunday, league leader Marseille takes on bitter rival Paris Sain-Germain, which will take first place from Marseille on goal difference if it wins at Stade Velodrome. Also, Bordeaux is at Brest and Lorient hosts Lyon.
On Friday, Saint-Etienne thumped Nancy 4-0.
Updated October 6, 2012