PARIS (AFP) –
A superb strike from Jeremy Menez and a late goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic guided Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-0 victory at Rennes on Saturday as the Ligue 1 leaders edged closer to their first title in 19 years.
Menez shredded the home defence to break the deadlock on 56 minutes, while Ibrahimovic netted his league-best 26th goal of the campaign in second-half stoppage time as PSG restored their seven-point advantage at the top of the table after Marseille had trimmed the lead to four following Friday’s 1-0 triumph over Bordeaux.
“(The title) is closer than before, it’s true, with a seven-point lead, even if the league isn’t finished,” responded coach Carlo Ancelotti when asked if his side was closing in on the league crown.
“It was an important win because of (Marseille’s result). We had plenty of problems in the last 20 minutes because Rennes pushed us. But the important thing is to have won this tricky match,” added the Italian.
Meanwhile, defeat for Rennes extended the Brittany outfit’s winless run to seven matches and left them languishing in tenth place.
Ancelotti made seven changes to the side that drew 2-2 on Tuesday against Barcelona with Salvatore Sirigu, Maxwell, Blaise Matuidi and Ibrahimovic the only holdovers from the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
He also elected to rest Thiago Silva ahead of Wednesday’s return leg at the Camp Nou, while Argentine duo Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi were only listed among the substitutes.
Rennes, whose last victory came back on February 10 against Toulouse, went close to going in front as Sadio Diallo forced a sprawling save out of Sirigu inside the opening 15 minutes.
Defender John Boye though was fortunate not to inadvertently hand PSG the lead just past the half-hour mark as his attempted headed clearance drifted narrowly wide of Benoit Costil’s right-hand post.
Ibrahimovic should have put the visitors in front just before the break after expertly freeing himself from Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, but the Swede’s ill-advised attempted chip was straight at the Rennes goalkeeper.
Jonathan Pitroipa then had Sirigu scampering across his goal in first-half stoppage time as the Burkina Faso star sent a fizzing drive fractionally wide of the mark.
David Beckham replaced the ineffective Marco Verratti at half-time, but it was a moment of brilliance from Menez that put PSG in front 11 minutes after the restart.
The France international collected a pass from Clement Chantome inside his own half before embarking on virtuoso solo run, dancing past several Rennes players and firing expertly beyond Costil for his third goal of the season.
Only the legs of the Rennes custodian prevented Kevin Gameiro from doubling the visitors’ lead moments later as the striker was denied from point-blank range after Ibrahimovic’s miscued shot bounced kindly into his path.
Rennes increased the pressure as the hosts went in search of an equaliser with Gregory van der Wiel making a fantastic sliding intervention to keep substitute Anders Konradsen from hauling Frederic Antonetti’s side level.
Having adopted a more attacking approach, Rennes were left vulnerable to the counterattack and PSG put the game out of reach in the third minute of injury time as Pastore played in Beckham down the right, who saw his clipped effort headed into an unguarded net by Ibrahimovic.Published 06 Apr 2013, 23:21 IST