Udinese Calcio 2-1 Stade Rennais FC
Antonio Di Natale and Pablo Armero scored in either half as the French side were made to pay for a host of missed chances in this Group I opener.
Article top media content
Udinese Calcio came from behind to get their UEFA Europa League Group I campaign off to a winning start against Stade Rennais FC.
Though the visitors took the lead through Youssouf Hadji and dominated for 75 minutes, their failure to finish myriad chances proved costly as goals in either half by Antonio Di Natale and Pablo Armero, seven minutes from time, condemned them to defeat.
Frédéric Antonetti's side began as they meant to go on, Jonathan Pitroipa side-footing an early shot over following a slick one-two with Chris Mavinga, while Jires Kembo-Ekoko, a threat throughout, missed his first chance after being put through by Yann M'Vila on 24 minutes.
By then, the Rouge et Noir were already ahead, Hadji having hared on to Stéphane Dalmat's slide-rule pass before beating Samir Handanovič. The Moroccan international almost scored again when his header was repelled by the excellent Udinese No1. Within seconds, the hosts raced away on the break, Pablo Armero releasing Di Natale, who fired just wide.
Unlike Kembo-Ekoko, 'Toto' would not pass up his next chance, and he took Almen Abdi's 40-metre pass in his stride to equalise with aplomb. Udinese were buoyed but were twice more indebted to Handanovič, who saved from M'Vila and the luckless Kembo-Ekoko before the break.
The Zebrette began the second period on the offensive, Diego Fabbrini forcing Benoît Costil into a first save within seconds of the restart. Their approach nonetheless left Francesco Guidolin's men exposed and swift counterattacks might have produced goals for Hadji, who hit the post, and Abdoulrazak Boukari, who blazed over. Dalmat and M'Vila were denied by Handanovič.
Rennes simply could not find the finish their play merited and when Boukari limped off, leaving them with ten men for the final 15 minutes, the match turned on its head. Notice was served when Maurizio Domizzi and Thierry Doubaï had efforts cleared off the line before Kwadwo Asamoah put Armero through to score the winner, in off the far post.