PARIS: From a deeper than usual playmaker role Brazil’s Neymar pulled the strings as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind to beat Rennes 3-1 in Ligue 1 on Sunday, helping to dispel midweek memories of a European flop at Liverpool.
Hosts Rennes took a surprise 11th minute lead when PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot nodded past his own ‘keeper, Gianluigi Buffon, from a corner before goals from Angel Di Maria, Thomas Meunier and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting gave them a hard-fought sixth straight Ligue 1 win.
Later Sunday Lyon, who stunned Manchester City in the Champions League in midweek, host bitter rivals Marseille.
PSG critics have suggested the French giants had overspent on strikers and forgotten about the midfield after a tame 3-2 defeat in the Champions League at Anfield this week.
With superstar striker Kylian Mbappe sitting out through suspension, there was room for both Di Maria and German winger Julian Draxler in the starting line up, with Neymar pulled into the No.10 position, where his passes were a sight to behold, behind Edindson Cavani.
A young fan ran on to the pitch as Neymar was leaving as a late substitute and the youngster crumpled in tears as his hero hugged him and gave him his shirt in touching scenes that are likely to go viral on social media.
Di Maria cracker
After Rabiot’s earlier upset Neymar seemed to be at the origin of almost everything the visitors threw at Rennes, including when Cavani hit the post from a sumptuous piece of play.
On the stroke of half-time Draxler cut back from the byline and Cavani’s dummy set up Di Maria to fire a precise shot into the bottom right-hand corner from a good 25 metres out.
Neymar, 26, was then at the root of both Meunier’s 61st minute goal and Choupo-Moting’s first goal for the Parisians since joining from Stoke.
“We did well to come back into it,” said PSG handler Thomas Tuchel, who instead of praising Neymar singled out Meunier.
“He was great again, a goal and some great passing, a top performance.”
Buffon had his work cut out in the second half as Rennes playmaker Clement Grenier fed the speedy Senegalese strike-pair M’Baye Niang and the 20-year-old Ismaila Sarr.
Rennes coach Sabri Lamouchi threw on ex-PSG midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa for one last roll of the dice but PSG went home with all three points and ideas about a new format for coach Tuchel.
Pointless Guingamp were left rock bottom of Ligue 1 Sunday when they were beaten 3-1 at home by Bordeaux, who thereby climbed out of the drop zone with just their second win from six outings.–AFP