Nzoni witnessed new club Rennes stage a stunning comeback to beat Breton rivals Nantes 3-2.

Welcome to Rennes, Steven Nzonzi!

Publish on 01/02/2020 at 09:00 - S. TELFORD


Steven Nzonzi was among the 30,000 in attendance at the Roazhon Park as new club Stade Rennais FC stunned FC Nantes with a pair of injury-time goals - scored by Benjamin Bourigeaud and Raphinha - to cement their grip on third place in Ligue 1 Conforama.

Nzonzi, who has arrived on loan from Roma having previously turned out for Stoke City, Sevilla and Galatasary among others, knows a thing or two about big games, having won the UEFA Europa League with Sevilla in 2016 and the FIFA World Cup with France in 2018.

Not much could have prepared him for what unfolded at the Roazhon Park on Friday, though. A pair of own goals - in which Nzonzi's future central midfield partner Eduardo Camavinga unfortunately had a hand - looked to be sending Nantes towards their first victory in Rennes since September 2013, but Bourigaud and Raphinha scored deep into injury time as Julien Stéphan escaped with all three points and a healthy helping of pride.

"It's been a long time since there was a derby like this," said the coach in a state of disbelief after the final whistle. "It'll certainly be part of history. But this isn't our best collective performance. We must be clear about that.

"We paid for the 120 minutes we played against Angers three day ago [Rennes beat Angers 5-4 after extra-time in the Coupe de France]. We lacked some energy, there were too many gaps in our defence. It's not the first time we've turned a match around."

Raphina's 97th-minute goal gave Rennes all three points against Nantes.

Indeed, Rennes have won some 14 points from losing positions this season, something that has helped lift them onto the Ligue 1 Conforama podium and hopeful of a first ever tilt of a UEFA Champions League campaign come the end of the season.

"We have strength of mind, we never let our heads go down in any circumstance," Stéphan continued. "We don't know how to give up. We turned a corner in October after losing 1-0 to Cluj in the Europa League with nine men. Another turning point was losing 2-1 to Dijon in November. We said to ourselves 'never again' and we've progressed a lot since.

"I took risks to win. We finished the game with five attackers. We targeted the right flank of Nantes' defence and our goals came from there!"

Rennes will hope for a quieter evening at last season's runners up LOSC on Tuesday, where Nzonzi's fresh legs and cool head will be more than welcome.

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