Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rennes 0 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Di Maria steps up as Cavani and Ibrahimovic sit out

SoccerNews in Ligue 1 30 Oct 2015

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Champions Paris Saint-Germain opened up a 10-point gap at the top of Ligue 1 as Angel Di Maria’s second-half strike was enough to see off plucky Rennes 1-0 on Friday.

With perhaps one eye on Tuesday’s trip to Real Madrid in the Champions League, PSG coach Laurent Blanc opted to rest Edinson Cavani entirely at Roazhon Park while Zlatan Ibrahimovic remained among the substitutes throughout.

And their absence was noticeable as champions PSG lacked a cutting edge in the final third, Ezequiel Lavezzi coming closest in the first half when he forced Benoit Costil into a smart stop in the area.

PSG dominated the second half but again struggled to create clear-cut chances against a Rennes defence that dealt with the pressure.

But the breakthrough arrived with 15 minutes remaining when the impressive Di Maria scored his third Ligue 1 goal after arriving late in the area.

The Argentina international will now focus on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu to face former club Real when PSG travel to Real.

Blanc may be concerned heading to the Spanish capital after his side struggled to break down a side winless in six league games before this encounter, with Ezequiel Lavezzi menacing but ultimately unable to find a telling touch.

The Argentine flashed a long-range free-kick wide before latching onto Di Maria’s pass and lashing an effort that required Costil to tip it over the crossbar.

As the half wore on, the absence of Ibrahimovic and Cavani became more conspicuous with PSG making little stick up top and Rennes gained a brief foothold in the game which led to Yacouba Sylla testing Kevin Trapp with a well-struck half-volley.

PSG almost led at the break. A blistering counter saw Di Maria slipping in Lucas Moura, whose rising left-foot shot was tipped to safety by Costil.

The visitors dominated possession after the restart, but too often their end product let them down.

Blaise Matuidi almost got on the end of a low Lavezzi centre, while Maxwell burst into the box only to lose control of the ball when in a promising position on the left of the area.

Still needing a goal, Blanc turned to the bench but it was Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta that came on ahead of Ibrahimovic.

And it was Verratti who helped make the breakthrough in the 75th minute, the Italian’s excellent long ball was taken down by Lucas and his clipped pass from the left was drilled into the bottom right-hand corner first time by Di Maria.

Lively Rennes substitute Pedro Henrique saw an effort flash wide of the right-hand post in the closing stages, but PSG were largely comfortable as they made it six straight league victories.

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