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Rennes 2-0 Stabaek

Jérôme Leroy struck either side of half time to send Stade Rennais into the UEFA Cup proper for the second successive season at the expense of Norwegian league leaders Stabaek. Although their guests put up a stubborn challenge, Rennes proved just too good in the end.

Stade Rennais qualified for the UEFA Cup proper with a nerve-shredding victory over Stabaek of Norway. Prior to the match, Rennes head coach Guy Lacombe predicted his side had a 50/50 chance of qualifying for the next round. The Bretons played superbly throughout and were worthy of their 2-0 victory. Both goals were scored by Jérôme Leroy – one in each half.

Round two of France against Norway took place at the Stade Route de Lorient. Having witnessed Marseille tentatively overcome the hurdle that Brann posed in the Champions League, Rennes faced a stiffer task as they attempted to overcome a 2-1 first leg deficit.

Starting anxiously at first, Rennes quickly got into their stride and would dominate vast periods of the opening 45 minutes. Several efforts peppered Knudsen’s goal in the opening 20 minutes but the closest the French side would come was a long range free-kick from Thomert that defender Skjonsberg managed to clear away as it headed for the net.

Unlike Marseille on Wednesday evening, Rennes were carving out real shooting opportunities. A clever flick from Briand, who was totally unrecognisable from the player that was booed by his own supporters in the victory over Lille last Sunday, would allow Thomert another shot at goal but the left-winger’s radar was just off again.

Such pressure would eventually draw a defensive error. Briand would be fouled in the box by Farnerud, allowed the usually reliable Jérôme Leroy a clean shot at goal from 12 yards. Leroy did his best to miss the penalty, striking weakly down the centre but mopped up the rebound from Knudsen’s initial block.

What would follow would be Stabaek’s best period of pressure in the match, however, referee Eogorov’s whistle would break their momentum and the familiar pattern of play would begin anew in the second half with the home side leading on away goals.

Chances would be harder to come by in a tense second half. More neat play from Briand created the first real opening midway through the period but Danzé’s shot was turned over the top by the Norwegian’s goalkeeper. Knudsen was to be Stabaek’s hero again ten minutes later when he blocked a great foray forward from Leroy with a terrific reflex save.

As in the first half, there was little relent of the pressure on the visiting goal. The Bretons’ attacking trio had combined superbly all evening and would do so decisively for Rennes’ second goal. Briand released Thomert on the left, who, in turn, drilled a low cross for the unmarked Jérôme Leroy to add his second of the evening.

It is unusual for a team to play 90 minutes without having one chance. Stabaek proved no exception as Nannskog had a late chance to take the game into extra-time but Nicolas Douchez, who was an Intertoto Cup penalty hero for Rennes, just managed to turn the ball away from the feet of the forward and out for a corner.

That was to be the last significant action of an incredibly tense evening’s football. Rennes march on to the next round of the UEFA Cup, where they will play a two-legged tie for the right to take part in the group stages.

RENNES 2-0 STABAEK

1-0    37’ Jérôme Leroy
2-0    79’ Jérôme Leroy

Rennes: Douchez; Bocanegra, Mangane, Hansson, Danzé; Leroy, Thomert, Cheyrou, Lemoine; Sow (Fanni, 58’), Briand (Kembo-Ekoko, 90)

Yellow Cards: Leroy 45’, Lemoine 71’

Stabaek:
Knudsen; Keller, Skjonsberg, Kjolo (Sandberg, 36’), Homvik; Andersson (Palmason, 77’), Annan, Farnerud, Alanzinho; Nannskog, Gunnarsson

Yellow Cards: Farnerud 36’

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