Montpellier HSC – Match Report vs RC Strasbourg 22/11/2020

Montpellier hosted Strasbourg in what turned out to be an incredibly exciting affair, with the home team running out eventual 4-3 winners after a first half which saw 6 goals. When Andy Delort headed home to put Montpellier 2-0 up against a struggling Strasbourg side after just 13 minutes had been played, it seemed as though this may be a walkover. However, Strasbourg showed some fight and spirit to try and get back into the game, and they were given a lifeline via two penalties in the space of five minutes that saw them draw level, to the shock of pretty much everyone involved. Nonetheless, despite this setback, Montpellier went back on the offensive, and after a delightful cross from left back Ristić, Delort headed home his second to restore his side’s lead. Yet there was to be another twist in the tail, as on the stroke of half time, Strasbourg striker Ajorque controlled a delivery into the area and slotted home the equaliser.

After an incredibly hectic first half that could have finished 5-5 given the chances that both sides were able to create and some of the woeful defending on show, neither side made any changes and the second half nearly matched the first for a while in terms of chances created, although neither side was able to be as clinical. In the end, the tie was decided by a Laborde volley from a Delort knockdown which put Montpellier ahead with just over 20 minutes left to play, and although Strasbourg worked hard to carve out another opening, Ajorque saw a guilt-edged chance saved and that put the game ended 4-3.

Montpellier set up in a fairly fluid 4-3-3 system that saw the front three constantly interchanging in an effort to create space and confusion amongst the Strasbourg backline. This worked effectively up against the Strasbourg back four, as the home side were able to move the ball wide before delivering into the area where they had created overloads thanks to the wingers coming narrow and the full backs bombing on. Both Ristić from left back and Sambia from right back registered assists and caused all sorts of problems by making marauding overlapping runs. However, with the full backs pushing so high, this left the centre backs isolated against the pace and directness of the Strasbourg counter attack, which caused problems defensively. Meanwhile, in central areas when attacking, Delort was unplayable in this game, showing aggression, skill, technique and a clinical edge to score twice and get an assist. Montpellier will not be pleased with their defending in this match, but will take the three points and draw positives from the attacking display that that they were able to put on.

Ratings

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Junior Sambia

Player profile:

  • Nationality: French
  • Age: 24
  • Date of birth: 07/09/1996
  • Current Club: Montpellier HSC
  • Career: Chamois Niortais, Montpellier HSC
  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Secondary Position: Centre Midfield / Right Back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Junior Sambia played as Montpellier’s right back in this match and put in an impressive shift down the right flank, displaying good energy levels in both attack and defence. The 24 year old rarely looked troubled at the back, and was not to blame for any of Strasbourg’s three goals. He could have perhaps provided more cover and protection for the centre back at times, but it would be harsh to criticise him too heavily for that, especially considering the influence he had when going forward.

Sambia is a powerful player, standing at 6’1 and with an average build that allows him to compete physically, whilst he displayed a good turn of pace to keep up with the winger or make overlapping runs. The defender was also competent in the air, and was able to win a few duels at the back post throughout the course of the match. He rarely dived into tackles, preferring to jockey the attacker and wait for support, or he tried to force the opponent to play backwards and away from the Montpellier goal. He was at times caught too high and wide, and he could have tucked in a bit more to provide more defensive security, but on the whole he was solid when out of possession.

It was when going forward that Sambia was at his most influential. He frequently made marauding overlaps of the wide player ahead of him, causing confusion in the Strasbourg defence and opening up space to deliver a cross in the final third. Once he had gotten into these types of positions, he demonstrated that he had the end product to match, making four key passes throughout the game. The right back broke free early on, but his cut back was fired wide, but then on the 13th minute, his pinpoint delivery to the back post was headed home expertly by Delort.

He showed his ability to drive inside on occasion as well, displaying confidence and good control of the ball to drive into space and pick out a fine pass, whilst he also played an important role in the winner, as it was his floated diagonal cross from out near the touchline that found Delort who in turn nodded the ball down to Laborde who supplied the finish. It is hard to criticise Sambia’s attacking display, and this is highlighted by the contributions he made to the final result.

This was a particularly impressive display from Sambia, who hardly put a foot wrong. His defensive positioning is the only part of his game that left some room for improvement, but aside from that he was one of the standout players in what was a manic affair and he will be hoping to stake his claim to a consistent starting spot.

Rating: A2

Stephy Mavididi

Player profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 31/05/1998
  • Current Club: Montpellier HSC
  • Career: Arsenal (Y), Charlton Athletic (L), Preston North End (L), Juventus, Dijon (L), Montpellier HSC
  • Position: Striker
  • Secondary Position: Left Wing / Attacking Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

This was a quiet display from Mavididi, who found himself unable to really get involved before being withdrawn with just under 25 minutes to play. When he did get the ball, he looked to be positive when dribbling, seeking to take on defenders and drive his team up the pitch. His close control is to a good standard, whilst his pace and agility made him a threat on the counter attack at times in what was quite an end to end game. Given the type of game that it was, Mavididi will perhaps be disappointed to not have been more involved due to the space that many of the attacking players were able to find.

Furthermore, despite showing confidence with the ball at his feet when driving at opponents, he didn’t seem to match that when he got his head up and looked for a pass, and seemed to prefer finding simple passes rather than trying to pick out a killer ball. One thing that did impress me about the entire front three, was their movement, and this included Mavididi, who started out on the left wing, but could frequently be seen drifting into more central areas where he could look to get on the end of crosses or knockdowns, creating overloads and causing confusion amongst the defence.

Defensively, Mavididi’s work rate was adequate but unremarkable, and he didn’t seem to make much of a concerted effort to track back if his team lost the ball high up the pitch. At six foot and with a relatively slim build, the English forward is capable of competing both aerially and physically, but failed to do so in this match, and spent most of the game on the fringes of the action.

The 22 year old’s movement and ability to run with the ball at his feet were promising, however, in a spread out game with lots of space to exploit, Mavididi failed to take the bull by the horns and had little real impact prior to his withdrawal. I have watched the forward on a few occasions now, and, from what I’ve seen, it is his end product in the final third that really needs to improve in order for him to make the next step up in his development, whilst he could be more proactive in games such as this one.

Rating: C

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