PARIS (AP) — Goalkeepers were in the spotlight on Sunday as Steve Mandanda delivered the first assist of his long French league career to help Rennes move up to sixth place with a 5-0 thrashing of Auxerre.
Clermont goalie Mory Diaw's tremendous talent was also on display as he helped keep his team afloat in a 0-0 draw with Strasbourg.
Mandanda, who joined from Marseille during the offseason after 14 seasons at the southern club, assisted Flavien Tait for Rennes’ fourth goal.
The France international retrieved the ball after a corner for Auxerre and kicked it up the field to Tait. Tait then held off Gideon Mensah before slotting home in the 79th.
“This is not necessarily my first responsibility, but when it happens it makes you happy," Mandanda said. “At 3-0, I wanted to calm things down a bit, but Flavien was so alone that I had to try it. I tried it, it went through and he scored. It's an assist, it's cool."
Earlier Sunday, Diaw ensured a third clean sheet in seven league matches for Clermont with a couple of decisive saves against Strasbourg, which dominated throughout and hit the woodwork twice.
The 29-year-old Diaw, who joined Clermont this summer from Lausanne, is experiencing the French league for the first time in his career.
Back in 2015, he was forced to leave Paris Saint-Germain, a club he never played for in the league, following controversy over the publication of a series of messages on social media.
He went through several difficult seasons abroad but has been flawless since the start of this season. Diaw has stopped 16 of the last 17 on-target shots he has faced, according to French league statistics.
On Sunday against Strasbourg, Diaw parried away a long-range volley that seemed headed for the top corner in the first half and blocked an effort from Adrien Thomasson from close range in the 64th.
Thomasson earlier hit the crossbar, and Maxime Le Marchand's header from a free kick in first-half stoppage time also struck the bar.
Le Marchand was sent off for a second yellow card with two minutes left as Strasbourg's winless run in the league this season was extended to seven matches. It is only the fourth time that Strasbourg has failed to win any of its first opening seven matches. The last time was during the 2005-06 season, and the team was relegated.
Clermont lags nine points behind leader PSG, which defeated Brest 1-0 on Saturday. Strasbourg remains in the relegation zone.
Dango Ouattara led Lorient to a 3-2 win over Nantes with a goal and one assist as the Brittany side extended its best start in the French league.
After escaping relegation with one game to spare, Lorient has turned around its fortunes this summer under new coach Regis Le Bris. The club plays enthralling football and the attacking approach has been rewarded with five wins from its seven opening matches.
Sunday’s win against local rival Nantes took Lorient to fourth place, just three points off PSG.
Ouattarra has played a crucial role in Lorient's dream start, with four assists and three goals under his belt already. After Ignatius Ganago put the visitors in the lead, Ouattarra leveled with a curled left-footed free kick that left goalkeeper Alban Lafont helpless.
Substitutes Yoann Cathline and Ibrahima Koné also scored for Lorient before Moses Simon ensured a tense finish with a goal in the 85th minute.
Caio Henrique delivered a pair of assists to Benoît Badiashile and Guillermo Maripan to help Monaco to a 2-1 win over fifth-place Lyon.
After a shaky start to the season, Monaco has now won its last three games in all competitions and climbed to seventh, two points behind Lyon.
Elsewhere, Andy Delort scored the only goal to give Nice a 1-0 win at Ajaccio; Angers defeated Montpellier 2-1 for its first win of the season; and Toulouse ended a run of three straight losses by beating Reims 1-0.
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The Associated Press