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Udinese edge closer after Rennes stalemate

Stade Rennais FC 0-0 Udinese Calcio
The Zebrette moved a step nearer the round of 32 after earning a point against their Ligue 1 hosts, who are eliminated after a third home draw.

Rennes' Yacine Brahimi (right) contests a high ball with Pablo Armero
Rennes' Yacine Brahimi (right) contests a high ball with Pablo Armero ©Getty Images

Udinese Calcio edged closer to the UEFA Europa League round of 32 after holding Stade Rennais FC to a goalless draw.

Nothing short of victory would preserve the hosts' European prospects, but save for two isolated second-half chances, the Ligue 1 side struggled to impose themselves on a Udinese team who twice hit the woodwork.

In a first half dominated by the visitors, Rennes were unable to muster a shot on target. The Zebrette, in contrast, might have scored twice in the opening 12 minutes through Antonio Floro Flores, who glanced Emmanuel Badu's cross wide and then hit a post. The former SSC Napoli striker pounced on a slip by John Boye, who had failed to deal with Kwadwo Asamoah's searching pass, but his side-footed effort came back off the far upright.

Mehdi Benatia also hit the goal frame soon afterwards, although Benoît Costil was never seriously troubled by the defender's looping header from the edge of the area. The Rennes goalkeeper was alert to Diego Fabbrini's low shot before the half-hour mark, however, following the first flowing move of the match, and a helpless bystander as Badu rifled an angled, dipping half-volley agonisingly wide from the 18 metres.

Rennes came out with more purpose after the break, Youssouf Hadji heading Stéphane Dalmat's corner over on 52 minutes, before setting up a chance for Vincent Pajot, who blazed over a sea of bodies. Lively substitute Jonathan Pitroipa also carved out a chance for himself only to be denied by Samir Handanovič, who almost punched the ball into his own net late on, but Francesco Guidolin's men might themselves have snatched a winner, Dušan Basta and Floro Flores both coming close.

The Friulani now just need to avoid defeat at home to Celtic FC on 15 December to progress to the round of 32.