Veteran Balmont stars as Dijon down Rennes
By A. Scott
The evergreen Florent Balmont played a starring role with a goal and an assist as Dijon FCO claimed their first win of 2018 on Friday, beating Stade Rennais FC 2-1 at the Stade Gaston-Gérard.
Dijon FCO 2 - 1 Stade Rennais FC
Dijon would have been relieved to back playing in front of their own fans after back-to-back away defeats that confirmed their difficulties on the road this season. They took the game to their visitors in the first half, even if it was Rennes who threatened first from a free-kick by the returning Wahbi Khazri that almost caught out Baptiste Reynet in the home goal (24').
The Burgundy club went in front on the half-hour mark, Balmont laying the ball off to Valentin Rosier and then continuing his run untracked into the box where he collected the return pass and fired past Tomáš Koubek at his near post.
Balmont then came close to a second moments later with a volley that forced Koubek into action, and Naim Sliti saw an effort deflected over by Ramy Bensebaini. Dijon deserved their lead, but Rennes managed to grab an equaliser, scoring before the interval in a Ligue 1 Conforama game for the first time since Sabri Lamouchi became coach in November. Ludovic Baal's cross from the left was overhit, but Benjamin Bourigeaud returned the ball first-time from the right at pace, and Ismaïla Sarr stuck out a leg to score at the far post.
Tavares nods in winner
Nevertheless, Dijon were not to be denied and they went back ahead as the midway point in the second half approached. Balmont collected the ball on the edge of the box, he was pushed wide but still managed to flight a cross into the six-yard box for Júlio Tavares to head home off the post for his seventh of the season.
Khazri and Sarr both came close to hauling Rennes level a second time, but Dijon saw the game out and secured the points that move them up into mid-table. The Bretons, meanwhile, now turn their attentions to the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain after missing an opportunity to put pressure on FC Nantes and OGC Nice above them in the table.
THE PLAYER: Florent Balmont
This was a remarkable midfield performance from Balmont, making his 476th top-flight appearance a week shy of his 38th birthday. He has never scored many goals and his opener here was his first in a Dijon shirt, his first indeed in almost three years. The ex-Lille man then followed that up with an assist for the winner. On form like this there is surely no reason why he can't extend his contract beyond this season and play for another year.
THE STAT: 7
Confirmation that Dijon are much happier playing at home. Their away record may be terrible, but they are unbeaten in seven games at the Stade Gaston-Gérard now, winning six of those.