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Crocodiles snap up top-ten spot at Rennes' expense

Publish on 09/04/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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Stunning long-range strikes from Denis Bouanga and Antonin Bobichon saw Nîmes Olympique run away with it in the second half and beat Rennes 3-1 in their rescheduled Week 27 Ligue 1 Conforama clash on Tuesday.

 Nîmes Olympique 3 - 1 Stade Rennais FC 

THE MATCH

The first half was a relatively balanced affair, with Adrien Hunou forcing an own-goal from Hervé Lybohy (40')  to cancel out Renaud Ripart's headed opener (24') but it was in the second half that Les Crocodiles took control of the match.

With both clubs seeing their respective captain sent off just before the break - the hosts' Anthony Briançon saw red for a late challenge on Hatem Ben Arfa (45'+1) while Rennes' Benjamin André got his marching orders for a second yellow (45'+4) it was Nîmes who returned for the second half with more drive.

Concerned about players picking up yellow cards and getting suspended for the Coupe de France final, Rennes boss Julien Stéphan opted to leave out Mbaye Niang and Ismaila Sarr, and his side's lack of cutting edge was clear to see as first Bouanga and then Bobichon produced stunningly confident strikes.

Spectacular strikes

When Ben Arfa lost the ball on the corner of the area, there hardly seemed enough room for Bouanga to get a shot away, but somehow the 24-year-old fired a missile past Koubek to get the home side in front once again (55'). Bobichon's effort was no less spectacular. With Rennes camped on the edge of their area, the midfielder had plenty of time to fire from 25 metres out, sending a shot rising all the way into the top corner of Koubek's goal - an emphatic strike that underlined an emphatic win (72').

There way no way back for an exhausted Rennes side, for whom the exuberance of 16-year-old midfield substitute Eduardo Camavinga was a footnote to the fact that the Brittany club's hopes of a top-six finish are fading. Their best bet for European football next season could well be the Coupe de France final against five-time holders Paris Saint-Germain on 27 April.

THE PLAYER: Denis Bouanga

After scoring in the 2-0 win over Caen at the weekend, club top scorer Bouanga was at it again on Tuesday, bagging his sixth pf the season. High on confidence, the Gabon international eked a spectacular strike out of what was less than a half-chance, putting Rennes on the back foot and paving the way for Bobichon's equally spectacular strike for Les Crocodiles to seal the deserved win.

THE STAT: 19

Nîmes had no fewer than 19 shots on goal in this match - compared to Rennes' eight - scoring or drawing a saves from Thomas Koubek on eight of those occasions. That this was the case, despite Rennes' dominating possession (54.8%), showed that Blaquart's side are still practising the aggressive, in-your-face style that saw them earn promotion to the big show last season.