Colin Crawford is a museum worker with a well cultivated taste for the arcane and unusual. Buy him a cup of tea and he’ll talk about anything to do with soccer.
This season Colin is exploring Ligue 1, club by club. This week? SM Caen, and their away match against Rennes.
A nice Sunday afternoon fixture this week. I’m not sure if it’s a traditional time slot, but most games in Ligue 1 seem to take place on Saturday evening, meaning they land at 2:00 EST. This is, honestly, a little inconvenient, coming right in the middle of the day as it does. This game starting at 11:00 on Sunday morning worked out perfectly for me, particularly as I had been out pretty late the evening prior.
And what a sight for sore eyes this game was! Rennes are outfitted by Puma and strode on to the field with a red shirt with broad black stripes on the shoulders. Caen, meanwhile, wear the ever reliable Umbro and were resplendent in head to to toe white. Both shirts were lent a dashing air with the addition of henley collars, button-less in the case of SM Caen. The stadium was mostly full on a wonderful sunny afternoon in western France, with both sets of fans in fine voice. Whilst we’re talking about sartorial matters, I couldn’t help but notice that Rennes featured Armor-Lux as a sponsor. I confess that a marinière from the Breton company has been an object of desire for some time now, so it was a pleasant collision of worlds.
As for the football itself, it was a lot better than I had expected it to be. Caen set up in a 4-1-4-1 with fifteen season Caen veteran and all-time appearance leader Nicolas Seube at the base of the midfield. He formed a block in the centre of the park with Julien Féret and Steed Malbranque, whilst youngster Yann Karamoh was on the right wing and Rony Rodelin ostensibly on the left. In reality, Rodelin appeared to have license to wander wherever he felt useful.
The left flank was patrolled with admirable energy by Vincent Bessat, a left winger filling in at full back, but offering the width lost when Rodelin tucked into the centre of the field. Karamoh was a little more orthodox with his positioning on the right flank, but Roman Genevois still offered the now standard overlap pretty regularly. This left Damien Da Silva and Syam Ben Youssef on their own at the back, but it never felt like a worry, Ben Youssef in particular showing he could be two steps ahead of any developing moves and bring them to a halt with strong but precise tackles.
The first half came and went with neither goalkeeper heavily worked, but some promising moments of interplay on display from both teams. It was pretty obvious that Renne’s Yoann Gourcuff (son of head coach Christian, which is where you’ve heard that name before), was the finest footballer on either team, demonstrating as such around twenty minutes in when he hit a raking pass from just over the halfway line towards Giovanni Sio up front. The ball travelled 40 yards and landed right onto the dashing Ivorian’s foot, but the first time shot was well saved by Remy Vercoute in the Caen net.
Unfortunately it didn’t take long for Caen to unravel in the second half, Rennes putting themselves ahead just 90 seconds in to the second period of play. They moved the play up the right flank very quickly, Gourcuff finding the overlapping Romain Danzé. He was able to take his time and find Wesley Saïd all alone at the top of the box; Ben Youssef had gone running off to the flank to help defend the cross that never came, Da Silva was marking Giovanni Sio by the penalty spot, and the midfield had been caught out by the quick transition to the attacking third. The finish into the bottom right corner was a good one, but the midfielder having that much space to run into was the result of a total mental lapse from the Caen players.
They looked to haul themselves back into the game, setting about their task with brio and verve. There was a period of ten minutes or so where the visitors created several good chances but couldn’t get the equalizing goal. Karamoh was played in by Malbranque, but his weak shot was beaten away by Benoit Costil for a corner. The set-piece landed with Damien Da Silva on the back post, who juggled the ball before turning on a volley. The shot beat the keeper, but not Gelson Fernandes on the line. Just a few minutes later Ivan Santini, who had been kept quiet up to this point, battered a header at goal that Costil was just about able to tip onto the bar. Caen were troubling Rennes, but this resurgence was short-lived, stymied by a short sighted tactical decision.
Caen head coach Patrice Garande is not the first to fall prey to the idea that an extra striker means more goals, and will certainly not be the last, but substituting Malbranque for Pape Sané meant that Caen lost any kind of hold on the game, as they essentially ceded the midfield to the home side. The fixture fizzled out from then on, briefly flaring back into life right at the death. Da Silva found himself unmarked at the back post, and able to fire a header at goal, only for Costil to make a pretty miraculous save. Rennes defended the resulting corner and quickly broke upfield, the fresh legs of substitutes Paul-George Ntep and Sanjin Prcić doing the damage as Prcić drove the dagger in with the last kick of the game.
Swing by later this week as we take a look at the capital of the Burgundy region, Dijon.