Paris Saint-Germain suffered defeat for the first time this season to Stade Rennes on Sunday, Oct. 4 at Roazhon Park. The Parisians’ passivity and wastefulness in front of goal was taken advantage of by a Rennes team that smelled blood in the water through the entirety of the contest. Overall, PSG’s poor performance furthered the notion that there is still much work to be done.
PSG lined up with Gianluigi Donnarumma in net and a defense consisting of Nuno Mendes, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos and Achraf Hakimi. Idrissa Gana Gueye and Marco Verratti made up the midfield, while Neymar Jr., Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe lined up in attack.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men had multiple chances to put the game away in the opening 45 minutes, but failed to find the net on each occasion. In the 23rd minute, Neymar had an open volley right in front of goal, but he skied the ball into the stands. The 25th minute saw “MNM” combine in Rennes’ final third, Neymar played a headed pass to Messi’s feet and the Argentine proceeded to play a one touch through ball to Mbappe to leave him one-on-one with goalkeeper Alfred Gomis. All Mbappe had to do was place it into one of the corners, but he mis-hit the ball and blasted it into the stands to waste another golden chance.
Paris had a dangerous free kick opportunity at the edge of Rennes’ box in the 30th minute. Messi stepped up to take it, and smashed it against the crossbar. Messi took the initiative once again in the 36th minute as he dribbled into the penalty box and dodged a challenge before he played a ball to Neymar on his left. The Brazilian attempted to cut it back to find Messi again, but a crucial intervention by Rennes midfielder Flavien Tait prevented this from occurring. Omari was then able to come out and retrieve the ball.
Omari came up big once again in the 44th minute. Di Maria found Messi at the top of Rennes’ box, and the Argentine played a one touch lob pass into the box for his fellow compatriot. Di Maria attempted to cut it back towards the penalty spot, but a diving Omari intervened and once again prevented PSG from finding the opener.
Passivity came into play in the 45th minute and catalyzed the opening Rennes goal. Neymar lost possession of the ball at the halfway line, and it was recovered by the men in red and black. The ball found its way to Birger Meling, who then played a ball to Kamal Deen Sulemana on the left side of the pitch near the 18 yard box. Sulemana caught Hakimi flat footed as he quickly cut inside and played a cross to the far post. The other Parisian fullback, Mendes, was caught ball watching and let Gaetan Laborde get free. By the time he realized, it was too late, as Laborde eloquently placed it into the bottom corner to give Rennes all the momentum going into halftime.
Paris suffered another killer blow to its morale in the opening minute of the second half. Benjamin Bourigeaud found Martin Terrier in Paris’ half, who proceeded to play a one touch through ball to fellow forward and goalscorer Laborde. Laborde dribbled towards the endline and cut it back towards the top of the box to a wide open Flavien Tait, who smashed it into the bottom left corner to double Rennes’ advantage.
PSG were still able to create chances after they went 2-0 down, but continued to be plagued by their inability to finish. The only time they were able to find the back of the net was courtesy of Mbappe in the 68th minute, but a video assistant referee check ruled the goal offside. Furthermore, Mbappe was put through on goal in the 70th minute, but once again failed to hit the target. Messi narrowly missed a free kick in the 74th minute.
Rennes held on to the lead to secure all three points and stun the Parisians. This victory moved Rennes into 11th place in the Ligue 1 table with 12 points. PSG remained in first place with 24 points, and now sit only six points in front of second place RC Lens.
After the contest, Pochettino expressed his frustration in relation to Paris’ missed opportunities in the first half. “We should have gone into the dressing room 2-0 up after the first half, but it was 1-0 for them,” he said.
Moreover, the Argentine discussed how Rennes’ goal to open up the second half impacted how the rest of the game was played out. “In the second half, to concede again in the first action, was difficult to accept. The frustration was there for us, along with the belief of Rennes. This goal made it difficult for us to have the capacity to create [opportunities],” he said.
Captain Marquinhos spoke on the lackluster Parisian performance after the match. “I think we weren’t efficient enough all over the pitch, at the back and up front,” he said. “We were able to create a lot of chances that we didn’t take and we conceded two goals that we needed to avoid, in key moments of the game.”
Despite the loss, the chemistry on the pitch seems to have improved. Multiple chances were created, and the dynamic between those in attack is definitely better than it was earlier on in the season. Paris will look to build on this performance when they host Angers SCO at the Parc Des Princes on Oct. 15 at 3 p.m. ET.