AS Monaco moved back to the summit of Ligue 1 on Sunday, despite being held to a 1-1 draw at Stade de Reims as the momentum swung again at the top of the table in France.
After Antoine Devaux had given the Champagne-region outfit a shock fourth-minute lead with a close-range header, Portugal international Joao Moutinho opened his season’s scoring account with a brilliant free-kick that flew inside the near post nine minutes later.
Up until Sunday, Colombian Radamel Falcao and Frenchman Emmanuelle Riviere had scored all of Monaco’s goals in the league.
Reims almost snatched a shock winner in the 86th minute, but Togo international Floyd Ayite was denied by Monaco’s Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, despite being clear on goal.
In a feisty finale, Reims had Atlia Turan sent off for a second bookable offense with two minutes left, but Monaco were unable to capitalize.
Claudio Ranieri’s men saw their two-point cushion at the top slashed to goal-difference over Paris Saint-Germain, who defeated Toulouse 2-0 on Saturday, as both clubs ended the weekend’s action with identical records of five victories and three draws.
“We gave up a stupid goal early in the match and it’s the second time we’ve started badly,” Monaco captain Eric Abidal said. “It was important to be collective and efficient, and we didn’t do that. Reims played well and tried to catch us on the counter, but we just weren’t clinical in front of goal. Even when they were down to 10 men, they still created chances.”
Promoted Nantes continued their fine start to the campaign earlier on Sunday with a display reminiscent of the style that made them eight-time champions as they defeated Stade Rennais 3-1.
The afternoon kickoff at Rennes’ Stade de la Route de Lorient produced a feisty derby that was eventually taken over by the Canaries thanks to strikes from Filip Djordjevic, Serge Gakpe and a stoppage-time clincher from Lucas Deaux.
“We had a very good first half, and produced good play and created good chances,” 50-year-old coach Michel der Zakarian said. “We should have been 3-0 up at halftime because we should have had a clear penalty and after that we had a black spell at the start of the second half.”
His slick passing formation outwitted their hosts in midfield, leading to Djordjevic’s headed opener after just 17 minutes.
In front of a crowd of about 25,000, Rennes, who suffered only their second league defeat, pushed forward in search of an equalizer, only to slip further behind to a brilliant Nantes second on the stroke of halftime.
Togo international Gakpe cut into the penalty area before turning two defenders inside out, and then hooking a low shot around Rennes goalkeeper Benoit Costil and into the far corner.
Nelson Oliveira then broke through for Rennes on 55 minutes after the ball pinballed into his path and he made no mistake with his one-on-one duel against Nantes No. 1 Remy Riou to pull it back to 2-1.
Der Zakarian’s men then had to endure a nerve-shredding finale before Lucas Deaux finished off a counterattack deep into stoppage-time to make the scoreline 3-1.
Also on Sunday, Fabrizio Ravanelli’s AC Ajaccio followed their first win of the season against Olympique Lyonnais last week with a hard-earned 1-1 draw at home to 2011-2012 champions Montpellier Herault.
The Corsican side went behind when Ajaccio-born midfielder Remy Cabella converted a ninth-minute penalty, before grabbing a share of the points with Ronald Zubar’s header 10 minutes before the break.