RENNES, FRANCE (AFP) – Rennes sent 5,000 fans racing home to beat a curfew on Friday ruing another wasted lead after their team lost 2-1 at home to Angers in Ligue 1.
A spike in COVID-19 cases in the region brought the introduction of a curfew from midnight on Friday.
That gave fans barely an hour to get home after the match or risk a EUR135 (USD160) fine.
Rennes could have moved to the top of Ligue 1 with a victory, instead, they suffered their first defeat of the season as, for the fourth time in four games, they blew a lead. This time they did not even gain a draw.
The home team started well. After 18 minutes, Paul Bernadoni, Angers record signing, failed to hold a tame volley from Flavien Tait.
Adrien Hunou pounced on the loose ball to slide it in from close range.
Angers quickly hit back. In the 27th minute, former Southampton player Sofiane Boufal’s shot from the edge of the box took a small deflection off Steven Nzonzi and a bigger one off Damien Da Silva before flying past Alfred Gomis.
In the 57th minute, Angelo Fulgini chasing a long punt forward wriggled past Da Siva and stretched out a toe to lob the ball over Gomis to give Angers the lead.
Almost at once, Gomis atoned with a spectacular save from a point-blank Boufal header.
The victory lifted Angers into the top six.
“For us, it’s an exploit,” said Angers coach Stephane Moulin adding that the Champions League had taken a toll on Rennes. “They used a lot of energy on Tuesday evening.”
Angers had conceded 10 goals over their last two away games.
“We had to close the floodgates and I liked the way we did it,” said Moulin Rennes manager Julien Stephan made five changes to the starting lineup from the club’s Champions League debut against Krasnodar on Tuesday when they squandered a lead and drew 1-1 at home.
“I’m disappointed with our match, with the two faces we showed,” said Stephan.
“We know it’s difficult to play every three days but we fought like hell last season to get the chance to play these matches one after the other.”
In that European match, the Rennes ultras, many without masks, had grouped behind the goal and celebrated together when their team took the lead.
On Friday, UEFA announced it had opened a disciplinary investigation against Rennes for violating its health protocol and failing to “maintain social distancing”.
For the game against Angers, the club again allowed 5,000 spectators to attend, insisting it would enforce stricter distancing rules and enforce a four-seat gap between them.
“We asked them to distribute these 5,000 spectators in the four stands”, said the prefect of Brittany, Michele Kirry.
As they watched their team lose to Angers, the fans were carefully spaced around the stadium, which might have also made it easier for them to rush for the exits at the final whistle as the match ended just over an hour before the curfew started.
“The curfew order only comes into force at midnight tonight,” said Kirry.
“It’s very complicated to cancel things on the day they are scheduled.”