Despite playing around 40 minutes with only nine men, Stade Rennais upset Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes, as they survived a siege to secure a 2-1 victory over the Ligue 1 leaders.
A fine goal from Romain Alessandrini proved the spark for a thrilling match, but the hosts were soon back level as Nene scored. Goalkeeper Benoit Costil may have been dismissed for the Breton club, but that did not stop Julien Feret putting them ahead again with a fine free kick, and they survived a remarkable second-half onslaught to claim three incredibly unlikely points.
Alessandrini had already given the home side warning of his shooting ability with a shot dragged wide after six minutes, yet the former Clermont midfielder was a good deal more clinical with his second effort on goal. When the ball broke to him at the edge of the area, a superb first-time shot left Salvatore Sirigu helpless.
PSG’s response was sluggish at first, yet they were awoken when Nene hit the post following a smooth move. The Brazilian found the net shortly afterwards as he finished superbly after a perfectly-weighted pass from Javier Pastore.
The hosts were breaking the Rennes backline regularly at this stage, and when Jeremy Menez was upended by Costil outside the box, the goalkeeper’s dismissal was the logical outcome.
Against the run of play, Rennes moved ahead for a second time. A cheap free-kick conceded by Blaise Matuidi was swept cleverly into the net by Feret while the whole of the Parc des Princes was waiting for Alessandrini to unleash another strike.
Before the break the pressure really started to mount on the Breton goal. Substitute goalkeeper Cheick N’Diaye had to be alert to stop a curling effort from Nene, but the custodian’s life would get a good deal more difficult after the break.
Immediately the pressure on the visiting goal intensified, with Thiago Silva glancing a header wide, and when Makoun was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Maxwell – his first was for arguing Costil’s red – the guests were left with a two-man deficit.
The pressure on the Rennes goal was incredible. Pastore had a shot pawed away by the goalkeeper before Alex glanced marginally wide. Minutes later, the Argentine midfielder hit the face of the post as he pounced on the rebound of a Nene drive that had also struck the frame of the target.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men maintained this intensity until the end of the match, yet the Rennes defence was heroic, with Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik outstanding for them in the heart of their rearguard.
That Rennes held on will be remembered as one of the results of the season, and it brings them into title contention as they have now won six of their last seven games to pull within a point of leaders, albeit with a slew of games still to be played this weekend.