UEFA Europa League, Matchday 1, 21/09/23
Rennes kicked off their Europa League campaign with a convincing 3-0 home win against Israeli side Maccabi Haifa this Thursday. Stade Rennais are top of Group F.
The Bretons wasted no time in opening the scoring. In the first minute of play, a loose throw-in from the visitors was intercepted by Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic, whose header found Ludovic Blas at the edge of Haifa’s penalty box. The former Nantes man showed tremendous skill to volley the ball in Itamar Nitzan’s right top corner with his left foot – a beauty of a strike. Blas almost turned provider after doing another number on the Israeli’s defense, but Désiré Doué’s header went centimeters away from goal.
Bruno Genesio’s players were in complete control against Maccabi Haifa who, it should be said, did not offer much of a fight against the hosts. The visitors’ almost non-existent press allowed Arthur Theate to tee up a powerful shot from 30 yards, but the Belgian’s effort only smashed Nitzan’s left post. Rennes went 2-0 up courtesy of another brilliant goal. Haifa failed to properly clear an inviting Blas free-kick and centre-back Warmed Omari teed up Adrien Truffert. The France international left-back found the back of the net with an inspired left-footed volley.
Rennes started the second half as they meant to go on. Lorenz Assignon and Ibrahim Salah both went close to killing off the game. The honour eventually fell to Bertug Yildirim. The tireless centre-forward headed home an inswinging Benjamin Bourigeaud’s corner kick. Les Rouge et Noir missed a flurry of chances late on with Maccabi Haifa completely surrendering to the hosts’s supremacy. Given the sheer weakness of tonight’s opposition, it is probably a bit too early to say Stade Rennais are truly back to their best. Although a morale-boosting 3-0 home win should provide Genesio’s side a welcome shot in the arm for the tougher challenges ahead. In two weeks’ time, Rennes will play Villarreal away. They take on Montpellier at La Mosson on Sunday.
Rennes players ratings
Steve Mandanda, 6
Lorenz Assignon, 6
Warmed Omari, 7
Arthur Theate, 7 – The Belgium international went up a gear compared to his struggling performance last Sunday against Lille. He dealt with Frantzdy Pierrot’s physicality with relative ease.
Adrien Truffert, 7
Nemanja Matic, 8 – The former Chelsea and Manchester United has put in an industrious shift in midfield. He made full use of his technique, positional awareness, passing quality and physicality to prove invaluable to Rennes’ attacking firepower.
Désiré Doué, 6
Benjamin Bourigeaud, 7
Ludovic Blas, 8 – It took him less than a minute to make his mark on the game. The mercurial playmaker scored a goal-of-the-season contender in lashing home a sublime half-volley in Nitzan’s top corner. A menace throughout the game.
Ibrahim Salah, 6
Bertug Yildirim, 7– The Turkish centre-forward delivered a promising performance for his first start for Rennes. The former Hatayspor man has looked involved from the get-go and stretched Haifa’s backline to great effect. He was fairly rewarded with a well-taken header for Rennes’ third goal of the night.