RECAP: RENNES 3 - 1 LE MANS
Rennes put on a strong second half display to beat Le Mans on Sunday evening, continuing their late season surge for a place in Europe while condemning the home team to their third consecutive defeat.
Carlos Bocanegra played the full 90 minutes at left-back, the American captain starting his sixth straight game having cemented his place in Rennes' defense after a rough patch earlier this season.
Rennes Coach Frédéric Antonetti was forced to alter his tactics after leading goal-scorer Asamoah Gyan complained of knee pain during the warm-up.
Antonetti started Ismael Bangoura on the right-wing, moving Jimmy Briand up top to replace Gyan as the lone striker.
With Rennes looking uneasy from the first whistle, Le Mans took the initiative. Roland Lamah had the first opportunity of the game three minutes in but his well-struck volley from the edge of the box narrowly missed the right post.
Bangoura could not do much better at the other end ten minutes later when he blasted high and wide after a penetrating run from Sylvain Marveaux in the midfield.
Les Rouges et Noirs grew more comfortable as the first half progressed and nearly found the opener in the 26th minute after good build-up in the midfield.
Marveaux beat two defenders before laying off to Briand who found Bangoura 15 yards from goal. However, the 25-year old Guinean failed to test Didier Ovono with his weak left-footed shot.
After a forgettable first half for both teams, Rennes finally went ahead six minutes after the break when Ovono tripped Marveaux in the box. Bangoura stepped up to the penalty spot to score his sixth goal of the season.
American fans were given a scare in the 57th minute when Bocanegra limped off the field after a heavy tackle from Lamah.
The American defender had just returned to the field when Le Mans found the equalizer: a miss-hit volley from Frédéric Thomas finding its way to Mathieu Dossevi who finished past Nicolas Douchez from inside the box.
A late showing by Briand, however, would prove the difference between the two teams. In the 74th minute, Rod Fanni raced down the right wing to cross from the byline, and Briand nodded past Ovono to give Rennes the lead.
With four minutes to play, Briand made it safe with his second goal of the game; the Clairefontaine product running on to a lofted ball from Bocanegra before finishing past Ovono.
There was still time for substitute Jires Kembo Ekoko to hit the post with a low drive from 20 yards, but Rennes were unable to replicate the score line of their win last week.
Rennes have now won four straight games and sit in seventh place, four points behind Marseille who have two games in hand.
They face a crucial test against fourth-place Lyon at the Stade de la Route-de-Lorient next Saturday.