© www.midilibre.fr 01 Apr Strasbourg close to happiness By: Tim Hartog National Leagues, France Pro A league Aix-en-Provence received Strasbourg for the most important match of this thirteenth round of the French Pro A. Indeed behind teams of the "big three", already qualified, the opponents of the day competed to enter the play-offs semi-final. By winning (10-11) Strasbourg has virtually assured its berth while Nice frightened itself receiving Lille (11-9) and Montpellier was far from convincing against Sète (6-2), with a top match against Marseille in a week. For several seasons Strasbourg was often an outsider early in the season and just as often, ended the season in the bottom of the table with each time a significant turnover in the team. Yet this season Strasbourg seems to have found the right balance: relying on its attacking quartet, the Alsatians finally are at the height of their ambitions. After a draw in Marseille (9-9) Strasbourg went to Aix-en-Provence, direct opponent for the fourth place. In this high-stake match Aix-en-Provence has almost always trailed in the score, following a repetitive scenario: Strasbourg took the lead by two goals, Aix-en-Provence then equalised and again quickly trailed. The evolution of the score testifies of that fact: 0-2, 2-2, 4-6, 7-6, 7-9, 10-11. Even when the Canadian international Constantine Kubada finally gave the advantage to his team (7-6), Strasbourg did not panicked, responding with a 0-3 run in less than two minutes. It is true that with Sutic, Racunica, Bratic and Romain Blary (11 goals together), the Alsatians have one of the best attacks in the league. As for Aix-en-Provence Oscar Carrillo (2 goals), very powerful early in the game, was far too provocative in the "money time" and justly punished by several counterfaults. This hard-won but logical victory (10-11) and the seven points gap in the standing, presumably puts Strasbourg out of reach of Aix-en-Provence. Igor Szabo from Noisy (www.lpwp.fr) On the opposite side of the table Noisy, last and still winless, received Saint-Jeand'Angely, penultimate but already with two wins. In this hard-fought match Noisy quickly took the lead thanks to a hat-trick of Igor Szabo (pictured, 3-2, 1st period). At mid-match Noisy managed to keep its tiny gap (6-5). But Saint-Jean d'Angely became more and more dangerous, well led by Miyko Nachev (2 goals), up to take the lead in the 23rd minute (6-7). Aware of the danger, the Parisians retorted immediately and, in less than a minute, regained control of the match (8-7 3rd period). A converted penalty later, Noisy made a break (9-7), which proved to be definitive, since Saint-Jean d'Angely failed one goal behind its opponent (final score: 9-8). If this first victory can legitimately please the Parisians, it’s unfortunately not sufficient to leave the last place in the ranking. Nice, who received Lille has greatly complicated its life and became very scared. The club of the French Riviera yet started the match on a high pace, leading 3-0 after only two minutes, and then... nothing more really interesting. Indeed, despite the small efficiency of Robin Lindhout (1 goal), top scorer of Pro A, Lille never gave up and clung closer to the score, thanks to Zoltan Radocz and Benoit Pachtem (3 goals each). Moreover the latter equalised (9-9) with three minutes to go, and plunged Nice’s players in great doubt. Happily Jure Nastran scored the winning goal (11-9), but only seventeen seconds from the end! To prevent any disillusionment Nice have to do much better, as the team has still to play each teams of the top five of the table. Once again Lille fails at nothing against a "big club" and this inability to sublimate the event is more and more frustrating for the northerners’ fans. The last match of the day, which featured Montpellier and Sète, was truly a small game as much by the smallness of the score as by the quality and intensity of the game practiced. Only the goalkeepers Gabor Jaszberenyi (Montpellier) and Billy Noyon (Sète), were at the height of the event each producing a high-quality performance. Nevertheless this does not explain such a poor match, and the victory of Montpellier (6-2) is anything but convincing. The reigning champion will have to seriously raise its level next week against Marseille! French Pro A League Results: Nice – Lille 11 – 9 (4-1, 1-3, 3-3, 3-2) Aix-en-Provence – Strasbourg 10 – 11 (2-2, 2-4, 4-3, 2-2) Montpellier – Sète 6 – 2 (1-1, 2-1, 2-0, 1-0) Noisy – Saint-Jean d’Angély 9 – 8 (3-2, 3-3, 2-2, 1-1) Standings after 13 matches: 1- Montpellier – 36 pts (+ 81) 2- Marseille – 35 pts (+ 108) 3- Nice (*) – 25 pts (+ 57) 4- Strasbourg (**) – 23 pts (+ 4) 5- Aix-en-Provence (**) – 16 pts (- 18) 6- Douai – 13 pt (- 38) 7 - Sète – 11 pt (- 31) 8- Lille – 10 pts (- 33) 9- Saint-Jean d’Angély – 7 pts (- 65) 10- Noisy – 6 pts (- 65) All teams with 13 matches played, except: (*) : 11 matches played (**) : 12 matches played Top scorers: 1 – Robin Lindhout (Lille) 46 goals 2 – Oscar Carrillo (Aix-en-Provence) 42 goals 3 – Ugo Crousillat (Marseille) 41 goals Next round 4 April Lille – Aix-en-Provence Montpellier – Marseille Douai – Nice Saint-Jean d’Angély – Sète Thanks to Eric Dupont.