Boukari beauty keeps Rennes run going
By A. Scott
Razak Boukari’s first-half thunderbolt sealed a 1-0 win for Rennes at Montpellier that takes the Breton side provisionally clear at the top of the table.
Saturday, 5 March
Montpellier Hérault SC 0-1 Stade Rennais FC
Rennes arrived at the Stade de la Mosson chasing a fifth consecutive league victory, and with the Breton outfit boasting the best defensive record in the division, they would have been confident of continuing their excellent run against a Montpellier side that came into the weekend having scored just 21 goals in 25 league games.
John Utaka made his first start for Montpellier, against his former club, as René Girard sought to boost his misfiring forward line. However, there was no Emir Spahic in defence, with the Bosnian once again suspended.
Montpellier enjoyed marginally the better of the opening exchanges, although the closest they came to opening the scoring was through an Olivier Giroud strike that Douchez parried before Romain Danzé turned the ball behind for a corner under pressure from Utaka.
However, it was Rennes that opened the scoring on 27 minutes, thanks to a thumping strike from Boukari. Abdelhamid El Kaoutari’s headed clearance from a Jérôme Leroy cross fell to the Togolese winger, and his volley was accurate enough to beat Geoffrey Jourdren low at the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.
It was Boukari’s fourth goal in seven league appearances since signing from Lens at the turn of the year, and it enabled Rennes to go in at the interval with their noses in front. However, Montpellier did come close to drawing level when an Utaka pile-driver beat Nicolas Douchez only to rebound to safety off the upright.
The hosts came out after the restart seeking to push Rennes back in search of an equaliser, but they rarely troubled a well-drilled visiting backline, and even Olivier Giroud’s turn and shot from inside the area that was deflected behind for a corner appeared to be going wide in any case. Utaka then played in substitute Geoffrey Dernis, who rounded Douchez only to see his goal-bound effort cleared off the line by an alert Jean Armel Kana-Biyik.
With Montpellier pushing further and further forward, Rennes should have killed the game off on the counter-attack with ten minutes remaining. Alex Tettey played in Víctor Hugo Montaño, but the Colombian missed the chance to score on his return to his old stomping ground by shooting straight at the advancing Jourdren.
Tettey then saw a powerful strike from distance pass just wide, but with Souleymane Camara only able to hit the bar after being played in by a defensive error deep into injury time, the one goal was enough for Rennes, who will now be watching events at the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday very closely indeed.