John Utaka scored twice as Montpellier Hérault SC came from behind against bottom side AJ Auxerre in a fraught final match of the season to seal the victory they required to clinch their first Ligue 1 title.
Montpellier arrived in Burgundy with a three-point advantage over their closest challengers Paris Saint-Germain FC, who also came from behind to beat FC Lorient 2-1 to keep their title prospects alive. But the drama intensified at the Stade Abbé-Deschamps as the game was halted for almost 20 minutes with the match hanging in the balance at 1-1, after Utaka had clawed his side level following Olivier Kapo's opener.
With PSG watching the nail-biting events unfold on television having won 2-1 at Lorient thanks to second-half goals by Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta, Montpellier, who have secured ten points this season thanks to added-time strikes, kept their cool as Utaka struck again with what proved to be the title-winning goal on 76 minutes.
Montpellier have become the 19th French club to win Ligue 1 and arguably the most unexpected since the turn of the century, but their achievement is not undeserved given they moved to the top of the French standings with ten games remaining and remained there. Their 50 points from 19 home matches was the key to their deserved maiden title triumph.
"It's fantastic, fabulous," said coach René Girard, who had ensured his side's UEFA Champions League group stage berth after a home win against the defending champions LOSC Lille Métropole last week. PSG will join the champions in next season's group stage, while Lille, in third, must contest the play-offs.
French Cup winners Olympique Lyonnais, who finished fourth despite losing 4-3 to OGC Nice, will play in the UEFA Europa League play-offs, while French League Cup winners Olympique de Marseille made the group stage, despite coming a distant tenth after a last-day loss against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard.
Fifth-placed FC Girondins de Bordeaux, meanwhile, earned a place in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round thanks to a 3-2 win at AS Saint-Étienne, pipping Stade Rennais FC, who routed Dijon FCO 5-0, by a point.
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|Last updated: 21/05/2012 00:32 CET|
Cavalli 20, 31
Utaka 32, 78
|Venue: St Etienne|
|1||Montpellier Hérault SC||38||82|
|2||Paris Saint-Germain FC||38||79|
|3||LOSC Lille Métropole||38||74|
|5||FC Girondins de Bordeaux||38||61|
|6||Stade Rennais FC||38||60|
|9||Évian Thonon Gaillard FC||38||50|
|10||Olympique de Marseille||38||48|
|15||Stade Brestois 29||38||41|