Julian Draxler continues fine start at PSG to increase heat on Angel Di Maria
PSG ground out a 1-0 win away at Rennes thanks to Julian Draxler's sublime first half finish.
Before the match, the most important thing for Unai Emery's men was to get back to winning ways away from home and they did just that. Although it was not as convincing as the 7-0 pummelling dished out to Bastia in the Coupe de France, it was good enough and puts AS Monaco and OGC Nice under a bit of early pressure.
On top of the three points, PSG came away with a clean sheet -- their first shutout on the road in Ligue 1 since back in October. That will be a big boost for the men from the capital, who have looked vulnerable at the back at home and away so far this season.
Draxler's full competitive debut in Le Championnat was obviously another bright spot. The Germany international scored as a substitute in the Bastia win last week and was the difference at Roazhon Park with a stylish first-time finish to beat Benoit Costil.
Edinson Cavani's goalless start to 2017 continues at that will concern Emery a little. The Uruguayan was not at his best in the 2-0 Coupe de la Ligue win over FC Metz in midweek and El Matador's malaise extended to Rennes, where he missed a brilliant chance inside the opening minute.
Both Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta were booked unnecessarily and that will have angered their coach. The former was cautioned for protesting when he was not awarded a penalty for alleged diving in the first half, while the latter was given a yellow card for simulation in the second.
Although they only had one goal to show for it by half time, PSG could have scored two or three times before the break. The second half performance was less positive and they perhaps should have been searching for a second goal to kill the match off.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Emery made some bold choices, notably starting Draxler over an improving Angel Di Maria and dropping both Christopher Nkunku and Adrien Rabiot but it worked out -- this time.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kevin Trapp, 6 -- The German goalkeeper was tested more in the second half than he was in the first and when called upon, he was calm and composed. Preferred over Alphonse Areola, he should keep his place for the trip to Nantes.
DF Thomas Meunier, 6 -- Once again, the Belgium international was a threat going forward and put in some dangerous crosses -- notably inside the opening minute only for Cavani to inexplicably miss. He was sound at the back too.
DF Marquinhos, 6 -- Another solid defensive display from the Brazil international to start 2017 after a sloppy end to last year.
DF Thiago Silva, 6 -- The captain was not at his monstrous best but did not have to be and continues to rebuild his rapport with compatriot Marquinhos.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 5 -- Aside from an important tackle late on to deny Adama Diakhaby, the France international was a diminished presence and guilty of lapses in concentration from time to time -- notably early on when he allowed the ball to slip out of play when well positioned to cross.
MF Thiago Motta, 6 -- Aside from a pointless booking for diving in the second half when he should have scored without looking for a spot kick, it was more substance than style from the veteran Italian.
MF Marco Verratti, 7 -- A very encouraging first glimpse of the Italy international in tandem with Draxler and it was the Azzurri star who assisted the German's goal. Otherwise, Verratti was PSG's best player but was booked for his incredulous reaction to his denied first half penalty appeal.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 6 -- Aside from a shot from distance that forced Costil into a low save, the France international added his usual energy and graft but little else.
FW Lucas Moura, 5 -- The Brazilian grew in influence as the match wore on but the first half passed him by when he had a good chance to score points over the benched Di Maria.
FW Edinson Cavani, 4 -- The South American's tough start to 2017 continues. He missed an excellent chance inside the opening minute and contributed little else.
FW Julian Draxler, 8 -- A very good Ligue 1 debut from the Germany international. Draxler took his goal very well but also offered a direct threat on the left, as well as the pace and trickery he was expected to provide when he signed.
FW Hatem Ben Arfa, 6 -- Sent on for Cavani after 69 minutes, the Frenchman did well to create a late chance for fellow substitute Adrien Rabiot.
MF Adrien Rabiot, N/R -- Introduced in place of match winner Draxler with 18 minutes to go, the France international should have done better when teed up by Ben Arfa late on.
FW Angel Di Maria, N/R -- The Argentina international replaced Lucas after 77 minutes and did little of note. El Fideo will be feeling the heat after Draxler's strong start to life in Paris.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.