Rennes denied late Europa League

A little-known rule kept Rennes from scoring a late goal in the Europa League.

  • Rennes manager Julien Stephan said he had taken a “emotional elevator” after his side had a dramatic late equaliser chalked off in Thursday’s Europa League match against Villarreal due to one of football’s little-known rules.
  • Enzo le Fee’s free kick in the 11th minute of stoppage time stuck the wall and rebounded back to the midfielder, who put the ball back into the box before Lorenz Assignon slammed into the net.
  • Rennes players celebrated wildly but their joy turned to despair after a VAR check ruled the goal out, with most in the French stadium thinking it was for offside.
  • However, under the rules of the game, Le Fee was not allowed to be the first player to touch the ball after he took the free kick.
  • “If the player taking the kick-off touches the ball again before it has touched another player, an indirect free kick … is awarded,” the law says.
  • “I knew the rule existed for penalties, I didn’t know it existed for free kicks,” Stephan said.
  • The win saw Villarreal leapfrog Rennes to the top of Group F and automatically qualify for the round of 16. Rennes came second and must now go through a playoff against a team dropping down from the Champions League to qualify.

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