Di Maria not at his best but scores the decider as PSG beat Nantes
Paris Saint-Germain opened up an 11-point at the Ligue 1 summit with a 1-0 win away at Nantes on Sunday but were made to work hard by Claudio Ranieri's well-organised home side at an atmospheric Stade de la Beaujoire as Angel Di Maria scored the only goal of the game.
Although it was not a good performance, ultimately, it is only the result that matters. PSG took all three points and capitalised on Monaco and Lyon being held to draws.
The clean sheet, the second of 2018, was deserved as Alphonse Areola and Presnel Kimpembe were among those to perform well at the back for the French capital outfit.
Les Parisiens might not have been prolific in front of goal but they were in control in the midfield, certainly in the first half, with Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot and Giovani Lo Celso all combining well.
Di Maria was on target for the goal but otherwise off target in a largely disappointing showing that saw him miss an open goal by clipping the crossbar instead.
PSG walked away with all three points but rarely tested Ciprian Tatarusanu and could easily have been punished for that lack of creativity.
Emiliano Sala actually put the ball in the back of the net for Nantes in the second half and although debatable, it was ultimately ruled out. The Ligue 1 leaders would have struggled to respond if the Argentinian's effort had stood.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Unai Emery's starting XI, while logical in the absence of Neymar, Thiago Motta and Javier Pastore, was struggling early in the second half. Although the Spaniard was unable to make the necessary changes to produce a second goal, he did make the right adjustments to guard Di Maria's first-half strike and turn it into three points.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 7 -- The French shot stopper was alert when he needed to be and made a couple of smart saves to ensure a second successive clean sheet across all competitions.
DF Dani Alves, 6 -- The Brazil international put in a solid but unspectacular display but was booked on the hour mark. The South American was pushed forward when Thomas Meunier was brought on to replace Edinson Cavani.
DF Marquinhos, 7 -- The young Brazilian was captain in the absence of Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta and marshalled his defence better than he has done in the past when wearing the armband.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 7 -- The youth academy graduate impressed in central defence and put in one of his most mature performances of the season alongside Marquinhos.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 4 -- The France international struggled in his first appearances of 2018 and was at fault for a few Nantes openings in the second half.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, 6 -- The Argentinian filled in as the defensive midfielder in Emery's three-man unit and although he was not outstanding over the 90 minutes, he was solid and enjoyed a strong first half.
MF Marco Verratti, 7 -- The Italy international fared better than fellow midfielders Rabiot and Lo Celso over the 90 minutes and was unlucky to be booked by referee Tony Chapron -- who had a nightmare of epic proportions -- 15 minutes in when he clearly got the ball.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 6 -- The Frenchman was decent enough alongside Verratti and Lo Celso and set Di Maria up for his howler of a miss before striking the post late on as PSG searched for a killer second goal.
FW Kylian Mbappe, 5 -- The France international was not his usual, vibrant self but that was largely down to Nantes' excellent organisation up against a very strong Parisian side. However, the teenage sensation did dummy Cavani's pass for Di Maria's decisive goal and drew a good, late save out of Tatarusanu.
FW Edinson Cavani, 5 -- The Uruguayan made his first start of 2018 and although it was not an ideal return to action, El Matador did still set Di Maria up for the only strike of the match.
FW Angel Di Maria, 5 -- The Argentinian might have scored but he struggled otherwise and will be wondering how he hit the bar with the goal gaping after Rabiot located him.
DF Thomas Meunier, 6 -- The Belgium international did the best he could with the 23 minutes he was given towards the end and forced Tatarusanu into action with a late header.
MF Christopher Nkunku, NR -- After Meunier had come on for Cavani, the youth academy graduate helped to shore things up for the final 11 minutes as a replacement for Di Maria.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.