Substitute striker Martin Terrier’s 87th-minute winner snatched all three points for a Lyon side who battled their way to an important, slender away victory.
The result sees them close the gap on second-placed Lille to just a point ahead of this weekend’s fixtures, while ensuring they returned to winning ways after a frustrating few weeks in the Champions League.
In a scrappy affair at Roazhon Park, Lyon ultimately came through a tricky test against a Stade Rennais side determined to return from their international exertions with a win. The hosts fielded a weakened backline with centre-back Damien Da Silva injured while both Ramy Bensebaini and Hamari Traore were both suspended.
They had to rely on the attacking quality of Hatem Ben Arfa, M’Baye Niang and Ismaila Sarr – who all impressed in flashes, but their productivity in the final third was disappointing.
Fekir’s bright start worries Rennes’ backline
Instead it was the visitors who started brightest, with captain Nabil Fekir leading by example in the early exchanges. His fizzed cross into the box caused problems aplenty for Rennes to deal with, before a ferocious low free-kick strike was tipped onto the post by thankful goalkeeper Tomas Koubek – watching on as the danger had been averted.
Depay’s shooting struggles continue
Rennes were taking defensive liberties at times and needlessly playing themselves into trouble, which was something Memphis Depay had his sights set on taking advantage of.
He had two great first-half opportunities – one with the goal gaping, which he flashed wide of the far post – before striking straight at the ‘keeper from close-range. Tonight was not his night in-front of goal, which despite his impressive form for the Netherlands, is a familiar sight this term at club level. He’s only scored once in France’s top tier since November.
Despite a purposeful start, he faded and was regularly frustrated – with the buoyant Rennes fans ironically jeering every misplaced pass or mistake in possession.
Ndombele bright, sarr frustrates, late chances and winner
Tanguy Ndombele was quietly effective as usual, whether that was breaking up play in midfield or creating chances for his teammates. Fekir curled an effort narrowly wide after his compatriot’s clever pass teed him up inside the box.
In the second-half, it was more of the same. Brazilian centre-back Marcelo had a goalbound header cleared off the line minutes after the restart, before Anthony Lopes was forced into a double save up the other end. Ben Arfa was thwarted, before substitute Jeremy Gelin’s backheel flick was also blocked in a goalmouth scramble.
Sarr had a penalty appeal waved away near the hour mark, after Jason Denayer – who conceded a spot-kick against Barcelona two weeks ago – lazily stuck his leg out again and gave the winger a reason to go down.
Replays showed there was contact, although Sarr was looking for a penalty – so the referee waved play on and ignored his futile protests. Minutes later Ndombele’s excellent touch and control was not rewarded with the game’s opener, as he too struck straight at the goalkeeper inside the box.
Lucas Tousart was excellent in snuffing out danger as Rennes threatened on the counter-attack late on and should have broken the deadlock after 85 minutes. Sarr and then Adrien Hunou missed glorious opportunities to make the visitors’ backline pay for lax defending.
Just a minute afterwards, Lyon delivered the killer blow with a well-worked break of their own. Having narrowly escaped at the other end, Terrier coolly slotted home from close-range after Bertrand Traore and Leo Dubois combined before the latter’s pass fell perfectly into Terrier’s path. Making no mistake to tap in at the near post, Terrier netted his fifth goal of the campaign and was a cruel way for Rennes to lose.