Soccer

PSG’s hopes of unbeaten Ligue 1 season ended by Rennes as star-studded attack fails to register shot on goal

Paris Saint-Germain’s hopes of a first-ever unbeaten season under Qatari ownership as well as their 100% winning record in Ligue 1 this season ended abruptly on Sunday with a 2-0 loss away at Stade Rennais, who continue their own fine record against the capital club.

Having beaten Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League in midweek, Mauricio Pochettino sent out his big guns once again at Roazhon Park in the hope of a similar performance before the international break.

However, the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Marco Verratti, Angel Di Maria, and Gianluigi Donnarumma contrived to concede each side of half time and most worryingly, did not even register a shot on target in Brittany as PSG failed to win for the first time in nine Ligue 1 matches this season.

Gaetan Laborde opened the scoring on the stroke of the break while Flavien Tait swiftly added a second just moments after the restart in a match PSG seemed to sleepwalk through having been forced to travel by minibus and car to the match because of this weekend’s weather.

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It was a return to the form we have seen pretty much all season long from Les Parisiens with so much star talent on the pitch that Pochettino appears at a loss to work out a functional system for them to play well together.

Messi, Mbappe, Neymar and Di Maria could barely muster an effort on goal together although the legendary Argentine did rattle the crossbar with a free kick which is rapidly becoming a trademark move since his PSG switch and the Frenchman also had a goal disallowed by VAR.

“We conceded two goals at key moments in the match,” captain Marquinhos told Amazon Prime Video after the final whistle. “These are important moments when you must be more focused and not conceded this sort of goal. That said, when you trail in a game, you must be more proactive than we were.”

It is not as simple as looking at that attacking lineup and expecting goals, though, when the team are unexpectedly leaky at the other end with this the third occasion across all competitions where the French giants have shipped two or more in a game.

Laborde and Tait’s efforts were largely possible thanks to a collective switch-off within the visiting ranks and the midfield pairing of Verratti and Gueye lurched from being match winning against City to looking as if they had never played together here.

It should be noted that Di Maria was added to the mix after the City victory as he is currently suspended in European competitions but PSG’s underwhelming performance should not take away from what was a fine group effort from Bruno Genesio’s men.

Genesio — affectionately known in France as Pep — is developing a habit with Olympique Lyonnais and now Rennes of producing good performances and results to match against the French capital club while he also managed to surprise Guardiola himself whileat Lyon.

Genesio managed to recover his players after their UEFA Europa Conference League exploits in the Netherlands away at Vitesse Arnhem on Thursday and they produced a ruthlessly efficient showing to poke holes in a Parisien backline which City were unable to do on Tuesday.

The reality of the domestic situation is that PSG remain six points clear at the Ligue 1 summit with RC Lens their closest challengers at present but this sort of result, truthfully, had been coming for some time and it is only surprising that it did not happen in Europe first.

PSG’s hopes of an unbeaten campaign, whatever it might mean to the players, staff, and leadership, is now gone for another year and while that might not be the end of the world, it is further evidence of the fact that they are not as dominant domestically as many assume or make out that they are.

The record set by the great FC Nantes side of 1994-95 is still safe and will remain so far another season at least but it is something which really felt possible for PSG to achieve this term and if this Rennes defeat turns out to make the difference, they will be kicking themselves.



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