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Guingamp blank Rennes 2-0 to clinch French Cup ‘Perfect match’

PARIS, May 4, (AP): Guingamp beat a dispirited Rennes 2-0 to win the French Cup for the second time on Saturday. Rennes was on the back foot from the outset and Guingamp had four chances inside the first 20 minutes. All of them were headers, highlighting the vulnerability of the Rennes defense. Defender Jonathan Martins Pereira gave Guingamp a deserved lead in the 37th minute with a crisp volley and top scorer Mustapha Yatabare headed in his 19th goal of the season one minute after the interval. Guingamp, then in the second division, beat Rennes 2-1 to win the French Cup five years ago. It has the smallest budget in the first division. Rennes was looking to win it for the third time after successes in in 1965 and 1971.

“We played the perfect match, we played really well in the first half and punished them with a goal,” said Guingamp coach Jocelyn Gourvennec, who played more than 200 league games as a midfielder for Rennes. “We controlled the game very well and were very disciplined.” It was a festive atmosphere outside Stade de France, with fans from the Brittany sides mingling, singing songs, and drinking copious amounts of beer, and without a hint of trouble. Even the French riot police, the CRS, enjoyed lighthearted banter with fans, some even taking off their helmets — a far cry from the edgy climate that surrounds matches involving Paris Saint-Germain.

French President Francois Hollande, a big football fan, was at the final. Both sides are languishing near the foot of the first division, with Rennes in 15th place and Guingamp in 16th, and still fighting a relegation battle. “We’re going to savor this because what we’ve done tonight is exceptional,” Gourvennec said. “But the season isn’t over yet and we still have work to do.” Standing side by side inside the stadium, fans waved Brittany flags and sang along as French singer Nolwenn Leroy gave a soaring rendition of the Breton anthem — Bro Gozh ma Zadou (Old Land of My Fathers) — before kickoff.

Guingamp made a bright start with midfielder Christophe Mandanne heading just over and center half Christophe Kerbat going wide with a glancing header. The Rennes defense became increasingly stretched and Yatabare, who scored twice in the semifinal win against Monaco, went close with a diving header from a cross after Guingamp got behind the defense with alarming ease. Another header, this time from midfielder Claudio Beauvue, sailed over as Rennes got another reprieve. “The first half was catastrophic, and we have only ourselves to blame,” Rennes midfielder Romain Danze said.

Guingamp took the lead when Martins Pereira pounced on a loose ball and drilled it past goalkeeper Benoit Costil from just inside the penalty area. Rennes did not learn from its bad defending, and Yatabare was left unmarked to head in a left-wing cross from Steeven Langil. “We had a psychological edge over them because we beat them home and away in the league,” Langil said. Rennes almost got back into the game in the 83rd when striker Nelson Oliveira struck a low shot that goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa tipped past the post.

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