Stade Rennais moved up to third place in Ligue 1 temporarily as they defeated Stade de Reims in a hard fought match at Roazhon Park.
It was game influencing performance by young Ousmane Dembele at the heart of the Rennes attack as the 18-year-old notched a double. Kamil Grosicki's early opener started proceedings but even a sole Reims goal from Aissa Mandi could not halt the in-form team of Ligue 1 from victory.
Two chances, two goals
The match passed by both teams in the opening minutes. Reims arguably edged the balance of the match but could not find the key passage in play to fathom a chance.
Rennes went ahead on 12 minutes with their first effort at goal with on-form Grosicki being the scorer. Hard work down the left channel by Giovanni Sio subsequently sent the ball into the box for the Poland international to notch in under Johann Carrasso.
Three minutes later and an almost identical finish put Les Rouges et Noirs two in front. Linking up in and around the box, Dembele passed to Grosicki who was clearly offside. The scorer became the assister when he passed back to Dembele to have his turn of sliding the ball under Carrasso.
Until the half time whistle there wasn't a stand-out chance for either side. Nicholas De Preville had a long range effort which evaded the right post and Grosicki was denied a second when Carrasso tipped his free kick over the bar.
Rennes don't crumble after conceding
After a half time change of referee, Reims came out rejuvenated for the second period in a bid to get a chance to aid their league safety. Hamari Traore and Aly Ndom both had decent chances sandwiched in between a good leg by Carrasso from a Grosicki scuffed shot.
Olivier Guégan's men got themselves back into the game on 59 minutes when the score was reduced by one goal thanks to captain Mandi. A costly trip by Rennes keeper Benoit Costil meant his palmed clearance fell into the path of Mandi who couldn't miss from inside the area.
Unfortunately for the strugglers, their grasp on the game fell not long after the goal when Rennes returned the game to a two goal lead. Dembele scored his 12th of the season after his solo run ended inside the box with him curling low with his left foot into the net. This was to be his last piece of play in the match as he was substituted for Ludovic Baal just before the restart of play.
The win puts Rennes closer and closer to a European spot. Currently four points behind second place Monaco, the Champions League group stages may be within their aims. Next week Rennes travel to Nice which will be seen by some as the ideal game to create a significant gap between the two teams who are battling at the top of Ligue 1. Next up for Reims are Rennes' bitter rivals Nantes at home, a must win to have safety in their sights.