Montpellier’s Mavididi hitting form again ahead of PSG test

After more than a year without finding the net, the English striker scored two goals over the weekend, hitting form again at the right time — just before leader Paris Saint-Germain’s visit on Wednesday.

Published : Jan 30, 2023 23:28 IST , Paris

Montpellier’s English forward Stephy Mavididi (R).
Montpellier’s English forward Stephy Mavididi (R). | Photo Credit: AFP

Montpellier’s English forward Stephy Mavididi (R). | Photo Credit: AFP

It has been a long wait for Stephy Mavidi and Montpellier.

After more than a year without finding the net, the English striker scored two goals over the weekend, hitting form again at the right time — just before leader Paris Saint-Germain’s visit on Wednesday.

Before Sunday’s 2-0 win at Auxerre, Montpellier and Mavididi were in full doubt mode following a run of four straight losses in all competitions.

Amid growing anger from fans who displayed insulting banners an threw flares onto the field to force a match to be stopped for several minutes two weeks ago, the 2012 French champions had dropped close to the relegation zone. And Mavididi was desperately looking for his first goal since last Jan. 23, when the former England under-20 player scored a superbly-taken winner in stoppage time against Monaco.

After that scintillating night, everything went downhill for the former Arsenal academy player. Mavididi injured his knee during training, keeping him sidelined for a couple of months, and then tore a muscle in his left thigh on the opening day of the current season in August.

The 24-year-old Mavididi — who joined the southern team during the 2020 offseason — only came back in October and has played just 10 league matches so far in Montpellier’s lackluster campaign.

His scoring drought ended in the 62nd minute in Auxerre when he collected a lofted cross on the edge of the box, dribbled past a defender and concluded the move with a powerful strike under the bar. Mavididi’s second goal came 10 minutes from time at the end of a counterattack.

“It had been a while, but I always kept on working,” Mavididi said after moving three goals behind Glenn Hoddle’s record of 27 goals for the English player with the most goals in the French league.

Montpellier struggled for long spells at Auxerre and Mavididi’s clinical efficiency made up for his team’s defensive inadequacies that still need to be fixed by coach Romain Pitau.

“We all congratulated him because we did not have much chances, maybe just two and we converted them,” said goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte, who returned to Montpellier this month to help his former teammates stay in the top division.

Lecomte, who had been playing on loan at Espanyol from Monaco, had a successful stint in Montpellier from 2017-19, earning international calls from France coach Didier Deschamps. He was brought back as a replacement for Jonas Omlin, who left for German club Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Club officials hope that Lecomte will restore the defensive stability the team lacks, having conceded 40 goals in 20 matches this season. In his 80th match in a Montpellier shirt, Lecomte was already decisive, stopping a penalty in the closing stages.

“It’s only one step, we need to carry on,” Pitau said after his players managed a first clean sheet this year to move up to 14th place in the standings, five points above the danger zone.

Keeping another one at home against PSG’s attacking armada could prove too difficult, although the Qatari-backed side has been struggling since the turn of the year. PSG has won only one of its last four league games, losing two, and coach Christophe Galtier acknowledged there is a problem.

“We did not propose anything in the first half, we lacked rhythm and intensity, and the players made a lot of technical mistakes,” he said after PSG was held to 1-1 draw by Reims on Sunday.

Starting with the Montpellier game, PSG will play seven matches in February, including major tests against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and rival Marseille in a domestic doubleheader.

In other matches Wednesday, second-place Lens hosts Nice and third-place Marseille travels to Nantes. 

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