Khlifa gets hat trick as Evian beats Montpellier

JEROME PUGMIRE AP Sports Writer Published:

PARIS (AP) -- Tunisia forward Saber Khlifa scored a hat trick as Evian won 3-2 at defending champion Montpellier in the French league on Saturday.

Khlifa put Evian ahead in the 30th minute when he coolly stroked the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren, but the home side led 2-1 at halftime thanks to goals from midfielder Marco Estrada and striker Souleymane Camara.

Montpellier twice hit the crossbar before Khlifa scored with two clinical finishes -- in the 62nd and 89th -- beating Jourdren both times with powerful curling shots.

"Conceding three goals at home is upsetting. If some of the players take themselves for world champions .... I'm disappointed and angry, we have to get back to basics," Montpellier coach Rene Girard said after the defeat that leaves his team languishing in 13th spot. "If you're not able to understand certain things playing at this level that is worrying."

The win moved Evian out of the relegation zone.

On Friday, Saint-Etienne thumped Nancy 4-0.

Khlifa's equalizer came after a mistake from Montpellier center back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, whose misdirected headed clearance landed at the feet of Khlifa. He still had a lot to do, cushioning the ball expertly before curling it into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.

Montpellier pressed for a winning goal. Defender Daniel Congre had his header cleared off the line by Ghana defender Jonathan Mensah, midfielder Younes Belhanda hit the crossbar with a free kick, and substitute Gaetan Charbonnier also struck the bar.

Against the run of play, Khlifa brushed off Congre as he attacked down the left, advanced toward goal and curled the ball over Jourdren's head as he came out to thwart him.

"We have no right to lose like that, we eased up too much after halftime," Montpellier defender Benjamin Stambouli said. "We're playing pretty well but if you ease up, even for a minute or two, your opponent will take advantage. Evian is a good team and they showed that."

In Saturday's games, it is: Montpellier vs. Evian; Bastia vs. Troyes; Lille vs. Ajaccio; Reims vs. Nice; Sochaux vs. Rennes, and Toulouse vs. Valenciennes.

On Sunday, league leader Marseille takes on bitter rival Paris Sain-Germain, which will take first place from Marseille on goal difference if it wins at Stade Velodrome. Also, Bordeaux is at Brest and Lorient hosts Lyon.