The pressure increased once more on under-fire Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier as he watched his side fall to a surprise 2-0 home defeat to Rennes at the Parc des Princes.
In a drab affair, the host dominated possession, but failed to truly threaten or properly test a solid visiting defence, and goals from Karl Toko Ekambi and Arnaud Kalimuendo-Muinga halted the champions elect from extending their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 12 points.
Karl Toko Ekambi and Arnaud Kalimuendo maintained Rennes’ reputation as PSG’s bogey team as they claimed a deserved 2-0 victory at the Parc des Princes.
PSG were seeking to extend their nine-point lead at the summit but laboured during Sunday’s first half in the French capital, with Kylian Mbappe going closest for the hosts after he had a 23rd-minute strike ruled out for offside.
Both teams had success with long passes in behind the opposition defence and, in the final minute of the half, on-loan Lyon forward Toko Ekambi latched on to Benjamin Bourigeaud’s raking ball and fired beyond Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The hosts were jeered at the interval and Messi came in for sustained catcalls from the home fans, whose mood was not improved by Kalimuendo finding a close-range finish against his former club.
Christophe Galtier’s side still had more than 50 minutes to find a reply at that point but failed to do so, falling to a first home league defeat of the season as Rennes made it three wins in their past four outings against the reigning champions.
REN — Karl Toko Ekambi (Benjamin Bourigeaud) — 45th minute.
REN — Arnaud Kalimuendo (Chimuanya Ugochukwu) — 48th minute.
Mbappe probed behind the Rennes backline during the opening period but was generally forced to shoot from wide positions and found veteran goalkeeper Steve Mandanda equal to the task.
An injury-hit PSG defence were a more straightforward proposition and Toko Ekambi finished clinically to claim his first goal since joining Rennes in January.
Ex-PSG youngster Kalimuendo produced a muted celebration to match the stunned silence when he dispatched Lesley Ugochukwu’s low cross after the hosts needlessly coughed up possession in midfield.
Rennes then bedded in for a defensive performance to see out victory, something they did in relative comfort.
Mbappe drew a spectacular stop from Mandanda inside the final 10 minutes and Messi got one more round of jeers when he smashed wide from distance in stoppage time.
Will PSG win Ligue 1?
Yes, probably, but they might have left the door slightly ajar heading into the final international break of the season. If Marseille win against in-form Reims in Sunday’s late game, the gap will be trimmed to seven points. PSG have a run of games against Lyon, Nice and second-placed Lens when the action resumes in April. With Christophe Galtier widely expected to be axed as head coach at the end of the season, it is not hard to envisage one or two more rudderless performances like the one Rennes benefitted from. If that happens, then things could yet get interesting.
Why do PSG fans boo Lionel Messi?
Messi will now head back to Argentina for a pair of celebratory friendly games, with a football-crazy nation saluting their World Cup heroes. It will mark a sharp contrast to the esteem in which he is held in Paris.
Before kickoff, captain Mbappe was roared by the ultras and there were some boos for Messi. They only became more voluble as he had the temerity to not turn around a shambolic collective display with his every action.
The boos are partly related to PSG’s Champions League exit against Bayern Munich. Although he was not directly culpable, Messi was supposed to be the guy who stopped all this embarrassment. He also hasn’t signed a contract extension, with his terms up at the end of the season and rumours of a return to Barcelona not going away. Considering this sample of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s Parisian experience, you have to wonder why on earth he’d bother signing any extension.
How many times did Arnaud Kalimuendo play for PSG?
Kalimuendo came through PSG’s youth ranks and scored nine times in 10 UEFA Youth League games. He made five first-team appearances between 2020 and 2022, starting twice and failing to score as a opportunities to break into a star-studded attack were limited.
His game-sealing goal was the latest on-the-nose example for the Parc des Princes faithful of a bright young talent succeeding elsewhere, from Kinglsey Coman performing decisively against PSG in the Champions League to Christopher Nkunku tearing up the Bundesliga and readying himself for a move to the Premier League.
An injury-hit PSG squad had a flimsy bench but it never needed to be this way. A top-heavy squad with the bulk of the budget ringfenced by a handful of stars feels so wasteful when prime Parisian talent that the club’s academy honed is thriving elsewhere. It is the men behind these decisions and not Messi who deserve boos.
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