Capital punishment for PSG vs. 9-man Rennes

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Xavier Laine/Getty ImagesAnother disappointing result for PSG at home as Javier Pastore continues to struggle in Ligue 1.

The nine men of Rennes inflicted a second consecutive home defeat on Carlo Ancelotti's Paris Saint-Germain side on Saturday as the capital club's grip on top spot was loosened further following another disappointing display.

Already without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Italian boss made a number of changes to his starting lineup including Zoumana Camara, Clement Chantome, Nene and Javier Pastore coming in but PSG were undone by Romain Alessandrini's immaculate first-time finish and a Julien Feret free-kick in a 2-1 defeat. Nene restored parity for a period before visiting goalkeeper Benoit Costil and midfielder Jean II Makoun both saw red.

Despite the result offering few positives, it at least showed that Nene and Pastore still have something to offer this PSG side. In recent weeks Nene's position at the club has been subject to speculation even though he's been unavailable for selection thanks to a facial injury, one that forced him to sport a 'Batman' mask against Rennes. The 31-year old has been linked with a return to Brazil in January and is believed to have no real part in future plans at the Parc des Princes because of his age. Pastore, meanwhile, hasn't featured regularly in the first team of late because of his lack of form, a slide that has once again ignited debate over his importance to the side.

The pair linked up to provide PSG's solitary strike, proving that there is goalscoring potential in the side outside of Ibrahimovic even though it came from two players not playing regularly enough to adequately compensate for the towering Swede's loss. It was an inch-perfect through ball from the Argentine playmaker that set Nene away, leaving the Brazilian free to demonstrate some expert control before coolly chipping Costil, who was still in goal at this point, for his first goal of the season. The former Monaco man was last season's Ligue 1 joint-top scorer with 21 goals but has been unable to replicate his form this campaign thanks to a change in formation and the arrival of new players like Ibra and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

The assist was Pastore's fourth of the season, while the hosts could have levelled once more when faced with nine men. The attack yielded a handful of chances but Guillaume Hoarau, a first half substitute for Jeremy Menez, hit the bar from Nene's cross before Pastore hit a post with the follow-up. Apart from that double-woodwork moment, replacement goalie Chieck Tidiane Ndiaye (in place of the dismissed Costil) kept PSG at bay with further saves from Kevin Gameiro (a second half substitute for Camara), Pastore twice and then Alex as les Parisiens laid siege to the goal. Nene also had a strike ruled out for offside.

Not having a cutting edge in Ligue 1 is a problem and it can't be disputed that without Ibrahimovic at the moment, PSG are a less prolific side. This summer's change in tactics has been hard for some players to adapt to, while Ibra's untimely suspension is hardly ideal as the team struggles to find coherence unit whether he's on the field or not. When he is in the team, no doubt the side look a lot more composed and purposeful but without him, there's no focal point for the attack.

With top spot now likely lost depending on Sunday's results -- in particular, Bordeaux vs. Marseille -- it will be a surprise if PSG are at the summit come next weekend's home clash with Troyes. One consolation for Ancelotti: at least the defensive and attacking flaws are being exposed at this stage of the season, rather than in the run-in when losing points costs you more ground in the title race. To take nothing away from Saturday's victors, the Rennes performance was also particularly dogged, a committed team performance that did manager Frederic Antonetti proud.

Also, the PSG midfield has lost its ability to control games recently, something that Ancelotti needs to remedy. Next up is a Champions League clash in Kiev that PSG need to win not only as it will help them secure a spot in the knockout stages, but because a big confidence-boosting performance is needed to avoid further complacency seeping into the squad.

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