It was almost a perfect performance, strong in attack and neatly containing Rennes’ best efforts, none of which were on par with those of Hatem Ben Arfa. OL put the performance against OM behind them, maintaining their 3-point lead over Nancy at the top of the table.
Before that, however, the Olympiens had already done the hard work that allowed them to get through the match without their top scorer, the Rennais having been unable to really worry Rémy Vercoutre. The OL keeper had only had to tip Sorlin’s corner onto the bar (14’) and watch as Fanni fired wide (21’).
The rest of the time, Alain Perrin’s men pushed up high and effectively nipped Rennes’ attacking moves in the bud. The OL manager had, however, had to reshuffle his line-up because of the suspension of Anderson and Fabio Santos, Toulalan’s lack of rhythm (which wasn’t overly apparent) and Sidney Govou’s accumulated game time. With Mathieu Bodmer in defence, and a midfield composed of Toulalan, Källström and Juninho, OL completely smothered Pierre Dréossi’s men and didn’t waste any time in taking the lead. After just 5 minutes, Hansson held Benzema back just inside the area (?) and Juninho scored his 6th goal of the season in all competitions (5’, 0-1).
So was it inside the area or just outside? Later in the match, referee Enjimi redressed the balance by denying the Lyonnais a penalty when Edman handled the ball in the area (18’) then neglected to send the Swede off for a foul, as the last defender, on Sidney Govou (64’). So…
And like against Stuttgart, the second goal came from a stroke of genius from Hatem Ben Arfa. After some of his trademark dribbling on the edge of the area, the OL forward smashed the ball just under Pouplin’s bar (23’, 0-2).
In fact one could quibble and say that the score line could have been even wider, because the Lyonnais weren’t content to sit back and defend their lead: Toto Squillaci saw his back-heel deflected by Hansson (15’); Pouplin fisted clear efforts from Juninho (18’) and Benzema (37’); then the Rennes keeper hung onto shots from Juninho (40’) and Ben Arfa (42’). After a slick turn and then cross from Govou, Karim Benzema couldn’t find the target (39’ and 43’).
Slightly less lively than the first, the second half saw the Rennais slightly more competitive, notably through a Sylvain Wiltord keen to shine against his former team-mates. “Nino” drew strong saves from Vercoutre (49’, 58’ and 60’). Having a huge night, the OL keeper also repelled a shot from Marvaux (65’). At the very end of the match, Briand screwed his shot wide (90’).
So, the night would have been perfect for OL had it not been for Bruno Cheyrou’s eliminating Karim Benzema prematurely from the game (58’). Fred replaced him but with his first effort shot over when clean through on Pouplin (50’), missed the target (85’) then was beaten for pace after being put through with a long pass (85’).
The second half in fact flowed smoothly for OL, with Alain Perrin able to sub off Sidney Govou and Juninho to spare their legs ahead of Tuesday’s match. The Olympiens will now have to settle into European mode to best prepare for what is shaping up as a veritable knockout clash in the Champions League before the away game in Glasgow. Bring it on!