PARIS (AP) — Rennes pulled within three points of second-placed Marseille in the French race for Champions League spots after Lovro Majer scored twice to help beat relegation-threatened Saint-Etienne 2-0 on Saturday.
Rennes struggled to break down a stubborn Saint-Etienne defense until Majer chested a ball down to fire into the bottom corner in the 41st minute.
The Croatia international scored again in the 84th by beating goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni from close range.
Rennes goalkeeper Dogan Alemdar kept a clean sheet by saving a shot from Arnaud Nordin in the 48th.
The top two French clubs enter the group stage of the Champions League while the third-placed team goes to the third qualifying round.
Saint-Etienne remained in the relegation zone, two points from safety.
Meanwhile, 10-man Lens salvaged a 2-2 draw with Nantes to keep its slim European hopes alive.
The host was down to 10 men from the 18th when goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca was sent off for fouling Moses Simon outside the area. Chasing a clearance, Simon outsprinted Lens defender Jonathan Gradit and beat Leca to the ball.
Lens stayed in seventh place, four points off a Europa League spot.
Nantes moved into ninth place and will have a better chance of getting a European spot when it faces Nice in the French Cup final next weekend.
Simon outpaced the Lens defense to open the scoring with an angled strike in the eighth minute.
The Nigeria international scored again from a rebound in the 32nd after backup goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez saved a long-range strike from Wylan Cyprien.
Lens midfielder David Pereira Da Costa pulled one back with a first-time effort in the 68th, and substitute Arnaud Kalimuendo equalized from the penalty spot in the 81st after Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont brought down Wesley Said.
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The Associated Press