A wonderful solo strike from Jeremy Menez helped Paris Saint-Germain prepare for their Champions League showdown in Barcelona thanks to a 2-0 win over Rennes, which re-established their seven-point lead of Ligue 1.
With nearly an hour gone the match looked flat, yet Menez, who had endured a frustrating game to that point, took it upon himself to carve past four challenges before sliding a composed finish past Benoit Costil to secure the points for Carlo Ancelotti’s much-changed side.
In stoppage time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic made it 2-0 with a finish from little more than a yard out after substitute David Beckham clipped a ball across the box.
It was clear both from the team selection, which saw the likes of Thiago Silva, Lucas and Ezequiel Lavezzi benched, and the performance of PSG early on, that minds had already turned partially towards the much-hyped midweek encounter, as Rennes enjoyed the better of the first half.
Sadio Diallo drew a good save from Salvatore Sirigu after a poor defensive header from Gregory van der Wiel, while Fantamady Diarra also forced a smart block from the Italian. Just before the break Jonathan Pitroipa smashed an effort just wide.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was present in PSG’s starting XI and was their major threat. Nevertheless, the lacklustre nature of the Swede summed up his side’s performance and this was typified when he finished meekly after expertly turning Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik.
At half-time Ancelotti introduced Beckham in place of the disappointing Marco Verratti, and the general tempo of the visitors’ play was lifted. Menez, in particular, looked a good deal more dynamic and threatened with a shot just over the bar before crafting his wonderful solo goal.
After PSG made the first breakthrough, they looked likely to fashion a second. Costil did well to deny Gameiro after Ibrahimovic’s miskick dropped kindly to him in the box, while the forward was also close to converting a Maxwell delivery from the left.
It was, however, Rennes who did much of the late running. PSG’s defending late on varied from the haphazard to the excellent, with Camara saving Sirigu’s blushes after he fumbled a cross and Van der Wiel making a key intervention when Anders Kondradsen burst into the box.
The hosts looked rather toothless throughout the encounter, and once PSG had grabbed the lead they appeared largely comfortable, although a Julien Feret shot from range did have Sirigu scrambling before Ibra finally tied the match up to secure the points.
Victory means that Ancelotti’s outfit have taken another big step towards a first title in nearly two decades, while it also provides an excellent platform for their trip to Barcelona, which has been their main focus for the last week.