Baldé reins in Rennes to keep Monaco second
Keita Baldé's strike nine minutes from time gave reigning Ligue 1 Conforama champions AS Monaco a 2-1 win over Stade Rennais FC on Wednesday to keep the principality outfit in second place at the winter break.
AS Monaco 2-1 Stade Rennais FC
The Ligue 1 Conforama champions came into the game with the momentum of three straight wins and the knowledge that any slip could let Olympique Lyonnais squeeze ahead of them and into second place at the halfway stage of the season with the seven-time French title-winners just behind on goal difference.
The hosts should have been ahead inside the opening minute, but Keita Baldé fired wastefully over (1') while Wahbi Khazri, recalled to the starting line-up and handed the captain's armband after being rested for the weekend defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, sent a drive just wide at the opposite end shortly afterwards (3').
But Monaco had the game in hand, and on 20 minutes, Falcao struck. Fabinho's ball found Rony Lopes, whose shot from outside the area beat Tomas Koubek in the visitors' goal but not the post. Thomas Lemar failed to convert the rebound, but Falcao stepped onto the loose ball, sidestepped a challenge, and unerringly picked out the far corner (20').
After netting his 15th of the season — but only his second in seven league matches — the Colombia international was clearly buoyed, and he worked space for a shot he sent just wide (27').
Khazri spot on
Terence Kongolo, in the side for the suspended Jorge, should have made it 2-0 at the break, but the Netherlands international fired over after a Joao Moutinho free-kick had found him at the near post (45+1').
Joris Gnagnon forced a save from Danijel Subasic (52') as Rennes' half-time introduction of Ramy Bensebaini and a back five helped get them into the game. Djibril Sidibé's push on James Léa-Siliki provided them with an even better opportunity, and Wahbi Khazri took it.
The former Girondins de Bordeaux player had missed a penalty late in the defeat to PSG, and nearly saw Subasic push out his spot-kick, but was relieved to watch the ball cross the line to level (59').
Sidibé sought to make amends, and tested Koubek with a shot from distance (72'). He also provided the cross from which Baldé half-volleyed home his second goal in as many league games and his fifth of the season (81') which — coupled with Toulouse FC's late goal at home to Lyon — keeps Jardim's men as the closest challengers to PSG.
THE PLAYER: Terence Kongolo
The Dutch left-back was making just his third league appearance since his summer move from Feyenoord and not only defended solidly but provided options going forward too. He might even have had a goal to mark a fine display.
THE STAT: 12
Monaco are unbeaten in the 12 league games in which they have scored the opening goal this season, winning 11.