Belhanda snaps as Montpellier lose their cool

Younes Belhanda was sent off amid a mass brawl and then turned on team-mate Olivier Giroud for not taking a penalty, as French league leaders Montpellier's nerves started jangling with Ligue 1 entering the home straight.

Souleymane Camara missed the stoppage-time penalty in the hosts' 2-2 draw with Evian Thonon Gaillard on Tuesday, having been made to wait for more than five minutes to take it after a brawl erupted on the pitch leading to Belhanda's sending off.

Morocco midfielder Belhanda, arguably Montpellier's best player this season, then berated league top scorer Giroud for not taking the penalty himself.

"I thought Olivier Giroud would take the penalty because it was his turn," Belhanda, who could face a multiple game ban for punching Evian's Cedric Mongongu on his way back to the dressing room, told sports daily L'Equipe on Thursday.

"And I see that Camara is taking care of it although he never takes a penalty. I ask him if he's sure about it and he says yes...

"There is one [player, Giroud], who can almost hand us the title and he doesn't take it [the penalty]. It was up to him to take his responsibilities."

Montpellier are on 73 points and lead second-placed Paris Saint-Germain by three points with three games left as they travel to fifth-placed Stade Rennes on Monday.

They could lose top spot on Sunday if PSG, who beat Saint-Etienne 2-0 on Wednesday, beat Valenciennes away.

France striker Giroud, however, refused to respond or add fuel to the flames. "He [Souleymane] took his responsibilities and we cannot blame him. Everybody misses penalties, starting with me. [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo missed one last week," he told L'Equipe.

"However, we are still the leaders and we have our fate in our hands."

The title race could turn into a three-team battle as defending champions Lille lie five points off the pace before hosting Caen on Monday and a much-awaited trip to Montpellier in the penultimate round of matches.

"Paris have the pressure and Montpellier have a tricky schedule," said Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard.

"Our goal is to win our three remaining matches and it could turn into something nice. We like this adrenaline."

Fourth-placed Olympique Lyon have a very slim chance of finishing third to claim the Champions League play-off spot, but it would almost take a miracle as they trail Lille by nine points with a game in hand.

"Let's just have no regrets, just in case," said coach Remi Garde before his team host Stade Brest on Sunday.

No games will be played on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the Furiani disaster when, before a French Cup semi-final between Bastia and Olympique Marseille, a stand at Bastia's Furiani stadium collapsed, killing 18 people.


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