Openda upends Reims’ route to victory

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Stade de Reims were denied a first home league win against Lens this century, with a second-half strike from Folarin Balogun being cancelled out by Loïs Openda for ten-man RC Lens, who made it 21 matches unbeaten in a run spanning back to April.

As one of the four Ligue 1 sides coming into the round undefeated, Lens influenced affairs early on, but it was Reims ace Balogun’s fine dribble and shot that threatened the visitors first, with shot-stopper Brice Samba pulling off a fine save to keep scores level. Lens responded well, and Openda, Massadio Haïdara and Florian Sotoca all showed determination, as they sought to give Lens a seventh straight win over Reims.

Openda, who had previously fluffed a close-range effort wide of goal, missed chances in succession ten minutes later, first sending his low drive inches past the right post following an impressive sprint, before seeing his volleyed effort blocked on the line by a defender. It was a stout defensive show from Reims, but with Lens on top as HT approached, home boss Óscar García perhaps went into the break more content of the two managers.

It was Marshall Munetsi who squeezed the first real chance of the second period, almost putting the hosts ahead via an opportune strike, but Samba’s presence between the posts proved instrumental once again. Although Lens kept their cool, a moment of disaster struck them in the 66th minute, with defender Deiver Machado being handed a straight red following a cynical challenge that denied Reims a goalscoring opportunity.

Reims immediately exploited their man-advantage, as Kamory Doumbia found Arsenal loanee Balogun loitering on the left wing, and the marksman made no mistake from point-blank range, to hand his side a potential third home league win in 2022 out of 11 encounters. Yet, with only four sides conceding more than Les Rouges et Blancs’ 12 goals so far, there was always the fear of a late sting.

Franck Haise’s Lens outfit proved resolute despite their shortcomings, and indeed went on to upset the hosts with the equaliser seven minutes before FT. Openda, making up for all of his earlier misses, rose high above his opponents following Sotoca’s cross and nodded the leveller, much to the disappointment of the Stade Auguste-Delaune crowd, who once more saw a victory over Lens slip through their heroes’ fingers.

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