Emotional Rennes return for Lemoine
Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik grabbed a last-gasp winner to give Rennes a 1-0 home win over Valenciennes on Saturday.
Frederic Antonetti's side looked set to drop points in the congested title chase at the top of the French table, but the France Under-21 defender rose to head home from a corner in stoppage time to move Rennes level on points with Lille, who led the way heading into this weekend's round of games.
Rennes Midfielder Fabien Lemoine marked his return four months after having a kidney removed by setting up the winning goal in the 1-0 success. Lemoine came on as a late substitute to a standing ovation from his home crowd with minutes to go and delivered the corner which perfectly found the head of Jean-Armel Kana-Biyak to secure a victory three minutes into extra time.
The win moves Rennes into third place in the French league equal on 31 points with leaders Lille, who host Nancy on Sunday, and second-placed Paris Saint Germain, who were held 2-2 at Parc des Princes by Monaco.
The 23-year-old Lemoine was forced to have his kidney removed in September after it was split following a heavy blow to his side during a league game.
"It's one of the greatest days of my life," he said. "Even if I wasn't on for very long, five minutes, it was a magicial moment.
"It's a great feeling. There was a lot of emotion when I returned to the pitch.
"The main thing was to get the three points. Everything is going our way," he said.
Defeat leaves Valenciennes 16th in the table, just four points above the relegation zone. The hosts had won just two of their nine games prior to this meeting but they made the better start with Jerome Leroy seeing his shot saved by Nicolas Penneteau after good work by Victor Hugo Montano.
But the visitors wasted two good chances of their own as Gael Danic was denied by Nicolas Douchez's save before David Ducourtioux's long-range effort flew narrowly over the bar. Rennes looked set to break the deadlock just seconds into the second half but a brilliant block from defender Rudy Mater deflected Abdoul Camara's effort wide. At the other end Douchez recovered brilliantly after being rounded by Carlos Sanchez, getting back to block Remi Gomis' effort.
Penneteau reacted sharply to keep out a Camara effort but the game seemed destined to end goalless heading into stoppage time. But Kana-Biyik got on the end of Fabien Lemoine's corner to finally beat Penneteau with a close-range header to the delight of the home support.