Rennes draw but rivals miss chance
Rennes held onto top spot in the French first division despite being held to a 0-0 draw at Lens today, while second-placed Saint-Etienne were unable to capitalise after losing 2-1 at Nice.
A hamstring injury to summer signing Victor Hugo Montano means Rennes are currently without a senior striker and they didn't threaten until early in the second half, when Lens goalkeeper Vedran Runje saved from Jires Kembo-Ekoko. Second-bottom Lens procured the clearer chances thereafter, with Toifilou Maoulida and Razak Boukari both unable to convert presentable chances.
Maoulida squandered a golden opportunity by heading wide from six yards after 20 minutes of the second period, while Rennes goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez clawed away Boukari's close-range header with six minutes remaining. The visitors finished the game with ten men following the late dismissal of substitute Tongo Hamed Doumbia.
Saint-Etienne forward Dimitri Payet celebrated his first France call-up last week and he put his side 1-0 up in the 11th minute at Nice, tucking home a penalty after he had been felled by Nemanja Pejcinovic. It was Payet's eighth goal of the season and he nearly followed it up with a ninth, only for his glancing header to hit the post.
Nice looked in danger of being swamped, but the momentum swung in the hosts' favour when Gonzalo Bergessio was shown a straight red card for a clumsy challenge on Eric Mouloungui in the 22nd minute. The home side drew level early in the second period when Anthony Mounier slammed a beautiful volley into the bottom-right corner from the left-hand edge of the penalty area.
Chaouki Ben Saada put Nice ahead in the 67th minute, beating Jeremie Janot with the aid of a deflection. It was Saint-Etienne's first defeat since a 3-1 loss at Paris Saint-Germain on the season's opening day and allows Rennes to move two points clear at the top of Ligue 1.