© www.dna.fr 29 Apr Montpellier's misstep By: Tim Hartog National Leagues, France Pro A league The penultimate round of the French Pro A League has brought no significant changes in the rankings, except the surprising draw (6-6) between Strasbourg and Montpellier; an encouraging result for the Alsatians but quite worrying for the reigning champion. The semifinals are known for several weeks now (Marseille-Strasbourg and Nice-Montpellier). Is this what appears to trample Montpellier with only 4 points (out of a possible 12) in the last four matches? Is it a sign of fatigue induced by heavy physical work in anticipation of the knockout matches to come? Is it a slight "demobilization" of the French champion who already in the final phase, neglect the end of the regular season? Whatever the reason is Montpellier’s loss of power is quite obvious and is not likely to reassure fans of the club. Yet not particularly transcendent Fabien Vasseur's players seemed to master their opponents, leading the score until the 26th minute (3-6), especially thanks to Mathieu Peisson (3 goals). In a game with as few goals one thought the victory almost gained for Montpellier. But this season Strasbourg has discovered ambition and surprised itself match after match. With the inevitable Nikola Sutic, Romain Blary (pictured) and Marko Bratic, the Alsatians inflicted a stinging 3-0 in the last period, and got a deserved draw (6-6). That really isn’t good for Montpellier who, falling to third place, has lost the advantage of a home second leg in its semi-final against Nice... who Strasbourg will host next weekend. The other interesting match of this 17th round opposed Lille to Douai. Besides a kind of revenge after a particularly eventful first leg in january, each club wanted the victory, as a matter of regional supremacy as far as to keep on aiming the fifth place in the standings. After the opening goal by Douai, Lille quickly took the lead under the leadership of Zoltan Radocz (4 goals), and led 9-7 early in the final period. Feeling aggrieved by some referees decisions, Douai drew from this adversity the strength to come back in less than five minutes, reversed the steam to take the lead (9-10, 29th minute). The end of the game was panting, Lille re-taking the lead before Douai equalized just seconds from the end, thanks to a particularly brilliant Romain Harrissart (6 goals – pictured hereunder). One often says that “a derby is not be played, but to be won”. Suffice to say that none of the teams can really be satisfied with this draw (11-11). Romain Harrissart in action (Douai) – www.nordsports-mag.com The other matches of this round showed far less suspense and sporting interest. Marseille, deprived of several clutch players (Garsau, Crousillat, Camarasa, Kovacevic), with only ten players and an average age of 22, had no difficulty beating Saint-Jean d'Angely, where Gerard Reixach-Boix showed his usual efficiency (4 goals). The final score (9-16) reflects the (large) gap between the undefeated leader and the last of the Pro A. It seems that Olivier Chandieu, the coach of Marseille, "rejuvenate" his team since several weeks, especially in preparation for the finals of the national U-17 championship, and that this mix between very young players and “old” experienced ones give really good results. In the game Noisy-Nice, Parisians led the score during two minutes (1-0), before being overtaken by a team of Nice team in full preparation for its semi-final. The easy victory (6-13) of Samuel Nardon’s players, associated with the misstep of Montpellier, propels Nice to second place in the standings, and strengthen the confidence and determination of the French Riviera team. Lastly, Sète seems to be endlessly losing their matches in the final period. Sete had yet resisisted Aix-en-Provence (5-6) until the beginning of the last period. The expulsion of Drazen Kujacic (aggressiveness) corresponded with the collapse of his team, finally beaten 5-10. It is such a pity to see a team accustomed to leading roles (3rd in 2014) disintegrate in this way, in the venue of Montpellier (where Sète is forced to play) with so few spectators! Add to that an disturbed offseason to come with the announced dismissal of Yannick Bonniou, the emblematic coach of the club, and everyone may understand that Sete has a haste that this championship ends. French Pro A League Results Noisy – Nice 6 – 13 (1-2, 1-2, 2-5, 2-4) Strasbourg – Montpellier 6 – 6 (1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 3-0) Saint-Jean d’Angély – Marseille 9 – 16 (1-5, 1-4, 4-1, 3-6) Sète – Aix-en-Provence 5 – 10 (2-2, 2-3, 1-1, 0-4) Lille – Douai 11 – 11 (2-1, 4-2, 3-3, 2-5) Standings after 16 matches : 1- Marseille – 47 pts (+ 130) 2- Nice – 40 pts (+ 78) (+4) 3- Montpellier – 40 pts (+ 76) (-4) 4- Strasbourg – 33 pts (+ 36) 5- Aix-en-Provence – 22 pts (- 23) 6- Lille – 17 pts (- 31) 7 - Douai – 17 pts (- 34) 8- Sète – 14 pt (- 47) 9- Noisy – 9 pts (- 93) 10- Saint-Jean d’Angély – 7 pts (- 92) Top scorers: 1 – Oscar Carrillo (Aix-en-Provence) 64 goals 2 – Robin Lindhout (Lille) 61 goals 3 – Gerard Reixach-Boix (Saint-Jean d’Angély) 55 goals Next round 2nd of May Douai – Montpellier Saint-Jean d’Angély – Aix-en-Provence Strasbourg – Nice Lille – Marseille Sète - Noisy Thanks to Eric Dupont.