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 Gianluigii Buffon from a corner before goals from Angel di Maria, Thomas Meunier and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting gave them a hard-fought sixth straight Ligue 1 win.
PSG critics had 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.
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With superstar striker Kylian Mbappe banned after his red card 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 onto the pitch as Neymar was leaving as a late sub and the youngster crumpled in tears as his hero hugged him and gave him his shirt in touching scenes bound to glorify the former Barcelona striker when they 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 set up.
On the stroke of half time Draxler cut back from the by-line and Cavani dummied setting up di Maria to crack a precise jab into the bottom right-hand corner from a good 25 meres out.
The 26-year-old Neymar was at the origin of both Meunier’s go ahead goal on 61 and for Chupo-Moting’s first goal for the Parisians since joining from Stoke.
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 woth all three points and ideas about a new format for coach Thomas Tuchel.