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Caen edge towards safety with Reims win

Publish on 10/05/2019 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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Relegation-threatened SM Caen drew level with AS Monaco on 33 points with a 3-2 win over Stade de Reims, Casimir Ninga, Fayçal Fajr and Frédéric Guilbert getting their goals at the Stade Michel d'Ornano.

SM Caen 3-2 Stade de Reims 

THE MATCH

Caen began the day in the relegation play-off place, and, having lost their previous two games, desperate to get back to winning ways. They came out with suitable intent, with Emmanuel Imorou flashing an effort wide of the Reims goal inside the first five minutes (4'). Fabien Mercadal's men had the lead 10 minutes later. Imorou turned provider, crossing for Ninga, and the big Chad striker headed home his sixth goal of the season, and fourth of 2019 (14'). Ninga could have doubled his haul midway through the half when he was found by Saîf-Eddine Khaoui, but the visiting defence caught up with him before he could convert (24'). Moussa Doumbia then exploded into action at the other end, drawing a good save from Brice Samba (31') before forcing home the equaliser from a penalty-box scramble following a corner (37'). Caen were simply irrepressible, though, and pulled ahead once again when captain Fajr steered a stunning free-kick in off the post (40'). Guilbert then gave the Normandy club a 3-1 advantage, his cross drifting all the way into the Reims goal (45').

Late drama

Reims goalkeeper Edouard Mendy deservedly made the shortlist for Ligue 1 Conforama's Team of the Season vote this week, and there was evidence as to why at the start of the second half, when he pulled off a fine double-save to stop Malik Tchokounté's header and then Ninga, who was following up on the rebound (50). Tchokounté then took Herman Moussaki's cross on first-time, drawing another good save out of Mendy (52'), and nobody was more relieved than the Senegal shot-stopper when the veteran attacker was subbed off for Prince Oniangué soon after (59'). Reims' European ambitions have tailed off in recent weeks, but the visitors' pride was obviously dented at the onslaught they had endured for the first hour, and poured on the pressure for the final third of the game, helped in no small part by second-half substitute Suk Hyun-jun. The South Korean found space in the Caen box, but his header was saved by Samba (80'). David Guion's side then deservedly pulled one back, with Arbër Zeneli converting a penalty after Doumbia had been brought down in the Caen box by Younn Zahary (81'), but the hosts held on to close out a 3-2 win.

THE PLAYER: Frédéric Guilbert

This was an inspired performance from Guilbert, shuttling up and down the right flank to make telling contributions at either end of the pitch. The Aston Villa-owned full-back won 13 challenges as well having two shots on goal, one of which - with a touch of fortune - went in. The Birmingham club loaned Guilbert straight back to his hometown club on signing him in January. They could have English Premier League football to play next season, and on this performance he wouldn't look out of place.

THE STAT: 2

Caen only have two goals to make up on 17th-placed AS Monaco assuming they match the principality club's result against Amiens SC next weekend. Malherbe have been in the relegation places for 14 of the possible 18 weeks since the turn of the year, but they may yet pull of the great escape.