Nenê hat-trick keeps PSG in the hunt
By A. Scott
A brilliant hat-trick from Nenê and a magnificent performance from Jérémy Menez handed Paris Saint-Germain a 3-0 win against Rennes that keeps them in the title running with a game to spare.
Paris Saint-Germain 3-0 Stade Rennais FC
This match was all square and finely poised when the sides went in at the interval, but Rennes were blown away in the first 20 minutes of the second half. The Bretons were unable to cope with the skill and speed of Menez and the finishing of Nenê, with the latter opening the scoring two minutes after the restart. He then curled in a stunning free-kick after Menez had been brought down, before completing his hat-trick from the spot after Menez had again been fouled.
With just one round of games remaining, PSG are still three points behind Montpellier at the top of the table after the southern club got the better of Lille. However, they do at least retain hope of becoming champions for the third time in their history if they can win at Lorient next week and Montpellier lose at Auxerre. And this win also guarantees that the capital club will end the campaign in the top two, meaning automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti again opted to pair Zoumana Camara and Alex together in the centre of the defence, while the absence of Thiago Motta due to suspension meant a start in central midfield for Mathieu Bodmer. Rennes were looking to bounce back from the 2-0 defeat at home to Montpellier on Monday that was a blow to their own hopes of claiming the one Europa League qualifying berth available via the league and they were also defending a ten-game unbeaten run against the capital club stretching back to October 2006.
Given what was at stake, it was understandable that there were a few nerves and Blaise Matuidi almost gifted Rennes a goal in the second minute. He was short with a backpass and ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu had to rush out of his area to clear at the feet of Youssouf Hadji. However, PSG looked in the mood going forward, and Menez fired just wide of Benoît Costil’s left post after being picked out on the edge of the box by Nenê.
But Rennes then began to settle into the game and kept their opponents at arm’s length for the remainder of the half, only being threatened by a Menez incursion from the right, the former Roma man playing a one-two with Nenê before shooting just wide of Costil’s far post.
That was a sign of what was to come in the second half, with PSG getting the all-important breakthrough goal in the 47th minute when Menez burst down the left flank and cut the ball back for the grateful Nenê to score.
Rennes coach Antonetti responded by throwing on Julien Féret and Jirès Kembo and for a brief spell the visitors were a threat. Féret even came close to equalising with a shot from inside the area that flashed past Sirigu’s far post. But the Rennes defence that had held firm in the opening 45 minutes were now being led a merry dance by Menez. When the mercurial number seven was brought down by Onyekachi Apam just outside the box shortly before the hour mark, Alex and Maxwell teed up the free-kick for Nenê to bend a wonderful strike high into the top-right corner of Costil’s net.
Paris were rampant and, when Menez was fouled inside the area by Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, Nenê rifled the resultant penalty into the net to put the home side out of sight and leave the Brazilian level with Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud atop the scoring charts on 21 goals for the season.
Despite Nenê’s hat-trick, the best player on the pitch was still arguably Menez, but he missed a great chance to get his name on the scoresheet when he hit the post after being left with just Costil to beat.