Substitute Joshua Wilson-Esbrand struck late as Reims edged Lorient 1-0 to move into fourth place in the French league on Saturday, only a point outside the top three spots.
Lens forward Florian Sotoca notched two goals and an assist to help last season’s runner-up climb to the middle of the table with a 4-0 rout of Nantes in the day’s other game.
On loan from Manchester City, Wilson-Esbrand opened his scoring account in the league by curling into the far corner in the 84th minute.
“It was a no-brainer to come here,” Wilson-Esbrand told Amazon Prime Video. “It was such an intriguing league, an exciting league, and I’m happy to be here.”
Wilson-Esbrand has already made seven appearances for Reims. He only played two games for City’s first team last season.
Reims dominated the first half but Lorient goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo saved a downward header from Teddy Teuma in the 13th and a deflected shot from Mohamed Daramy in the 29th.
The hosts continued to push for a winner in the second half. Teuma’s tame effort in the 70th didn’t trouble Mvogo while Junya Ito missed the target with a lob in the 72nd.
Apparently frustrated by some calls and Lorient’s time-wasting, Reims coach Will Still was sent off in the 81st after receiving a second yellow card for dissent.
Still was contrite.
“We had to show patience and not lose patience, unlike me,” Still told Amazon Prime Video. “I’ve always been like that. Even when I was little, I was receiving stupid red cards because I live in the moment and sometimes I’m a little bit silly … It was taking 10 years for a goal kick and six years for a throw-in. I was telling myself: ‘At some point, he will caution them, he will say something.’ And then it’s me who screwed up. I shouldn’t have reacted that way.”
Lorient is two points above the relegation playoff spot.
In Lens, Sotoca put the hosts ahead with a penalty in the 27th after Nantes center back Jean-Kevin Duverne missed the ball while attempting a clearance and ended up kicking Adrien Thomasson’s leg instead.
Sotoca teed up Facundo Medina for the second goal in the 58th. The Argentina international fired a low drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Sotoca made it 3-0 with another spot kick in the 72nd after Morgan Guilavogui’s shot hit Jean-Charles Castelletto’s arm.
Lens substitute Neil El Aynaoui capitalized on a goalmouth scramble to seal the win in the 89th.
“We’ve had good games since the start of the season, but we were not successful in terms of points,” Sotoca told Canal Plus television. “I hope this will tip us over to the right side. In any case, it’s a game that can boost our confidence for the future.”
The scoreline could have been worse for Nantes. Lens striker Elye Wahi missed two big chances, shooting wide after a counterattack in the 40th and having a close-range effort saved by goalkeeper Alban Lafont in the 61st.
Seventh-place Nantes is two points clear of Lens despite the defeat.
On Friday, Nice beat Clermont 1-0 to take the provisional lead of the standings.