PSG stumble at home to Rennes but still crowned champions
Paris Saint-Germain suffered their first home defeat in Ligue 1 since Nov. 17, 2012, on Wednesday, going down 2-1 at home to Stade Rennes. Ironically, it was the Breton outfit that last beat the French champions at the Parc des Princes -- also with a 2-1 scoreline -- with 29 games between the two losses.
However, the defeat did not stop PSG from finally claiming their second consecutive Championnat title -- the capital club's maiden successful title defence -- and a first-ever league and domestic cup double. Even before their surprise defeat, the title was assured for Laurent Blanc's men. An 85th-minute equaliser from En Avant Guingamp's Fatih Atik at the Stade Louis II meant that the game finished 1-1 and the Parisians stay seven points clear of les Monegasques at the top of Ligue 1.
The relief at having finally secured the title was clear for all to see in Paris and the final whistle sparked jubilant scenes at the Parc des Princes -- despite the result. The performance, though, was not something to be celebrated.
Ezequiel Lavezzi's third minute goal opened the scoring for the hosts, but Philippe Montanier's determined visitors -- spurred on by a painful defeat in the Coupe de France final to local rivals Guingamp last weekend -- fought back through Foued Kadir and then took the lead thanks to Paul-Georges Ntep.
Aside from Lavezzi's eighth goal of the season, there was little positive about PSG's performance, and questions are once again going to be asked of the players' attitudes and Blanc’s tactics. Starting in le President’s preferred 4-3-3 once more, the team were frustrated by another side who seem to have worked out how to combat them.
In recent weeks, PSG have been far too predictable and it was the same on Wednesday against a Rennes side fighting for a win to secure ultimate safety. The coach showed zero flexibility after his side conceded a second goal in four first half minutes, opting to make a like-for-like change with Marquinhos coming on to replace the injured Christophe Jallet. Instead, PSG only changed shape when the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lucas Moura came on. The Swede's return after one month out injured was a massive boost and brought an otherwise subdued home crowd back to life early in the second half. It was not enough to make a difference, though, even though Blanc's changes allowed Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani a rare opportunity to play together through the middle up top.
By that time it was too late, though. The hosts had lapsed into the same complacent state of mind that they have been dwelling in for the past couple of weeks now and struggled to show any real urgency or to create any clear chances going forward. Javier Pastore was one of those who let the game pass him by, but few really took the chance to involve themselves.
It should take nothing away from Rennes, who were excellent on the night, but there was a distinct lack of focus within the PSG side. After taking their foot off the gas following Lavezzi's opener -- which was self-inflicted from a Rennes standpoint thanks to some suicidal defending -- the knowledge that the title was already won shone through.
Overall, the result does not hurt thanks to Monaco failing to beat Guingamp, but with a number of records left to beat before the end of the season motivation should not be short in supply. That appears to be the case though, with a number of PSG stars playing as if they are already on holiday.
Losing the possible 30-game unbeaten home run in Ligue 1 was another disappointment, but the most important thing is that the team are now over the line and have a fourth French title in the bag. With two games left, they can still make the margin of victory over Monaco greater, but any more performances like this against Rennes and it will take the shine off of what has been an otherwise brilliant season.