Folarin Balogun continued his strong Ligue 1 campaign with a pair of goals for Reims in their win over Rennes, while USMNT starter Tim Weah’s late appearance had an indirect impact in Lille’s road victory over Clermont Foot.
Stade Reims 3 – 1 Rennes
A man-of-the-match performance from Folarin Balogun on Thursday night was more than enough to push Reims past fourth-place Rennes in the Stade Auguste-Delaune.
Balogun started the game as a man possessed, already setting up an attempt in the fourth minute and forcing a save one minute later, before finally striking gold just seconds when he blasted a cross from Alexis Flips just under the crossbar at the center of goal.
Flips made it 2-0 for the hosts midway through the half, smashing a cross from Marshall Munetsi with a right-footed shot to the lower left corner.
One minute into first-half added time, the visitors did pull one back, with Arthur Theate heading in a corner from Martin Terrier.
Balogun, whose 86-minute performance included four shots and an additional chance created, as well as a late yellow card, netted a second goal with six minutes left in regulation, heading in a poor clearance for his tenth goal of the season to complete the 3-1 win.
Reims finishes the round in tenth place, with a visit to Tim Weah’s Lille in the cards for their next outing on January 2.
Troyes 0 – 0 Nantes
Erik Palmer-Brown took up his usual spot in the Troyes starting eleven, as the team held strong on defense to maintain a tough, scoreless draw at home against Nantes.
Even though the hosts held the edge with 56% of possession, it was still clear that Nantes were the more agressive, ruthless and likely to come out as victors.
Despite having won only two of their first 15 games, Nantes outshot Troyes by a 19-6 margin, and put five on target, in comparison to only a pair forced saves by Palmer-Brown’s teammates.
Nantes attackers Mostafa Mohamed and Moussa Sissoko had a pair of early, rapid-fire chances just before the 20-minute mark. However, Troyes keeper Mateusz Lis was up to the task, saving both shots on the way to a total of five stops.
Palmer-Brown put on a strong performance along with the rest of the Nantes back line. He had a total of 85 touches in the central defense, the most amongst the back-four, completed nearly 90% of his 88 passes, made five clearances, won two of three duels, and did not commit a single foul over 90 minutes.
Troyes finish the round in 14th place, two points out of the relegation spots. They next face second-bottom Strasbourg on Monday, January 2.
Clermont Foot 0 – 2 Lille OSC
Tim Weah was a late substitute for Lille on Wednesday, as they eventually dispatched Clermont Foot with a strong second half to stay within reach of Ligue 1’s European places.
It took until midway through the second half before Lille finally broke the deadlock against their hosts, after Clermont defender Mateusz Wieteska tripped Angel Gomes as he darted into the left side of the area.
The English youth international opted to reap the rewards of his hard work, and cooly put his spot kick away to the lower right side of goal, sending Clermont keeper Mory Diaw diving in the opposite direction.
Lille coach Paolo Fonseca immediately brought Canadian forward Jonathan David onto the field moments after the goal, then inserted Weah into the fray with 12 minutes on the clock.
The game looked headed for the narrow 1-0 win to the visitors until Clermont defender Maximiliano Caufriez was shown a second yellow in the 91st minute for a hard foul on Weah in the midfield.
Lille quickly capitalized on their advantage, with David doing the hard work to advance the ball to the edge of the area before laying it off to Mohamed Bayo on the right for a low, ten-yard finish.
Lille end the round in sixth place, one point behind Monaco in the Europa Conference League qualification spot, and still only four out of the third-place Champions League qualification place.