PSG got what they deserved at Rennes, admits Pochettino as Ligue 1 title hopes fade

By Sports Desk May 09, 2021

Mauricio Pochettino has not given up on winning Ligue 1, but conceded Paris Saint-Germain got no less than they deserved against Rennes as their title hopes took a hit following a 1-1 draw.

Neymar celebrated his new four-year deal with PSG by scoring a contentious penalty to put Pochettino's team ahead on Sunday, only for Serhou Guirassy's fine header to seal a point for Rennes.

PSG were in fact lucky not to lose, with Presnel Kimpembe seeing red late on and Keylor Navas pulling out some impressive saves to keep it at 1-1.

The draw leaves PSG three points behind Lille with two games remaining – no team has ever been crowned Ligue 1 champions with such a gap at this stage – and the title may well be wrapped up next week should the capital club drop points against Reims and the leaders beat Saint-Etienne.

Indeed, it is not just the title PSG have to worry about, with their place in the Champions League no certainty.

PSG edged possession (57.8 per cent) against Rennes, but their tally of 12 attempts was seven fewer than the hosts managed, while only four of them were on target – Bruno Genesio's European hopefuls, who were without key midfielders Steven Nzonzi and Eduardo Camavinga, managing 10 in total.

"A lot can still happen, we are disappointed, but we have to give credit to Rennes, who had a very good game," PSG head coach Pochettino in his post-match news conference.

"We have to win the next matches to hope for something. We were not better than Rennes over 90 minutes, we did not deserve to take three points.

"It's a season with a lot of ups and downs, we arrived four months ago to help the club. A club like PSG must always think in the future. Every club thinks of improving, decisions will be made at the end of the season, we always think of improving."

While Neymar toiled, he was not helped by the absence of Kylian Mbappe, who was suspended – albeit he has been struggling with an injury which kept him from featuring against Manchester City in the Champions League midweek as PSG lost in the semi-finals.

Asked if Mbappe's absence was a major factor in the poor performance, Pochettino replied: "We must not think that we did not win because of an absence."

PSG have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight Ligue 1 fixtures, conceding 11 goals in total, making it their longest such run since a streak of 11 top-flight matches back in 2012.

The frustration boiled over heading towards the dying embers, with France centre-back Kimpembe lunging in on Jeremy Doku and receiving a straight red.

"We see frustration with the result, he arrives late. We are professionals, we know our responsibilities, our obligations," Pochettino said.

PSG captain Marquinhos, however, did not hold back.

"We will play what we have left to play. We have a Coupe de France to go for and the championship to continue to put pressure on Lille," he told Canal+.

"We have to go 100 per cent. It is unacceptable to leave points like that when we are Paris Saint-Germain. It can happen once, twice, but it's starting to happen a lot. We have to be sincere, it's not our best season, we weren't very strong. We have to do a lot better at the end of the season."

Related items

  • Verstappen impressed by Red Bull strides after beating Hamilton to pole in France Verstappen impressed by Red Bull strides after beating Hamilton to pole in France

    Max Verstappen feels his pole position for the French Grand Prix underlines the progress Red Bull are making as they take the Formula One title fight to Mercedes.

    Mercedes are hoping to bounce back at Circuit Paul Ricard after chastening outings at the street circuits of Monaco and Baku.

    But while they are close to Red Bull at the more traditional track in Le Castellet, they could not prevent Verstappen from claiming pole on Saturday with an advantage of 0.258 seconds to Hamilton.

    Valtteri Bottas can also apply some pressure to Verstappen after the Finn came third, just ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who won a thriller in Baku last time out. 

    Mercedes were dominant in the two French Grand Prix editions held since the race returned to the F1 calendar as Hamilton won from pole in 2018 and 2019.

    But they will have to triumph from behind this time if they are to make it a hat-trick.

    "So far it has been a really positive weekend on a track where it has been normally a bit difficult for us," Verstappen said after claiming his first pole since the opening race in Bahrain.

    "FP2 was a bit of a turnaround for us - of course to get pole position was even better and really nice. There is some great promise from our side and I hope we can keep it up.

    "No points were scored but for us it is a great day and we have to finish it off on Sunday and try to get the 25 points that we lost in Baku.

    "I am confident [with our race car] actually, the car felt good in FP2 so I am looking forward to it."

    The lost points in Baku referred to Verstappen suffering a heartbreaking tyre failure as he closed in on victory, though his pain would be eased slightly as Perez ensured a Red Bull triumph while Hamilton did not pick up any points.

    It has been another difficult few days for Hamilton, who was pleased to end up on the front row for a race where weather could be a factor.

    "A really, really hard weekend - mentally and just trying to get the car into a happy place," said the seven-time world champion, who trails Verstappen by four points.

    "You wouldn't believe how many changes I have made over the time since FP1, going round and round kind of chasing the tail and then ending up coming back to something similar to where we started. 

    "Congratulations to Max, they are incredibly quick, they've got a new engine this week and they are quick in the straights - a lot of time for them there.

    "We have a race on our hands and we are loving the battle - we are going to keep pushing, fighting and giving it everything.

    "Obviously in second you have at least a fighting chance down to turn one, plus there will be some interesting strategy and maybe some rain so a chance to see who is the rain master!"

    Bottas is under pressure at Mercedes after a miserable start to the season but was satisfied with a solid weekend so far, having been competitive throughout practice.

    "It has been a strong weekend, for sure a lot better than a couple of weeks ago, so at least we have seen the pace has been there," he said. "The last run in Q3 felt good for me.

    "We have seen it is going to be close with Red Bull as it was in qualifying. Can't be too happy being third because it has been a strong weekend otherwise, but I think Red Bull were faster."

    Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher crashed as two red flags in Q1 led to Lance Stroll being eliminated without setting a time.

    Esteban Ocon, at his home race after signing a new deal with Alpine, was among the eliminated drivers in Q2, as was Sebastian Vettel, who took an impressive second place in Azerbaijan.

    There was a big gap between the two leading teams and the rest in Q3, with Carlos Sainz ultimately taking fifth ahead of home favourite Pierre Gasly and the pole-sitter from the last two races, Charles Leclerc.

    PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:29.990
    2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.258s
    3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.386s
    4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.455s
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.850s
    6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.878s
    7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.997s
    8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.262s
    9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.350s
    10. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.392s

  • Hungary 1-1 France: Griezmann strikes as Les Blues held amid raucous atmosphere in Budapest Hungary 1-1 France: Griezmann strikes as Les Blues held amid raucous atmosphere in Budapest

    World champions France were unable to confirm their place in the Euro 2020 knockout stages as they were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Hungary amid a raucous atmosphere in Budapest.

    Hungary frustrated Portugal for 84 minutes before their defence was breached in their opening game and they gave France an almighty scare in Saturday's clash in front of a deafening home crowd, which saw them rewarded with a point.

    After squandering a few big chances, France's run of 527 minutes without conceding was ended by Attila Fiola's goal just before half-time at the packed Puskas Arena.

    Antoine Griezmann fired in a leveller with 66 minutes played, but Les Blues – who saw a late penalty appeal dismissed – could not find a winning goal and had to settle for a point that leaves them waiting on their place in the last 16.

    Peter Gulacsi made a brilliant save after 14 minutes to keep out Griezmann from close range, but the offside flag likely would have denied the forward had he scored.

    Kylian Mbappe then sent a free header spinning wide after being picked out by Lucas Digne and Karim Benzema miscued off target from an even bigger chance soon after.

    Those missed opportunities came back to haunt France as Fiola was played in behind down the left after a one-two with Roland Sallai and coolly converted past Hugo Lloris.

    The introduction of Ousmane Dembele around the hour mark gave France a spark and the Barcelona forward struck the outside of the post two minutes after coming on.

    France's pressure told seven minutes later when Mbappe – spotted by a Lloris pass – teed up Griezmann with the help of a scuffed Willi Orban clearance for a simple finish.

    Mbappe guided a Griezmann delivery into the side netting and Gulacsi was alert to Mbappe's next attempt as France, whose appeals for a stoppage-time spot-kick following some shirt grabbing at a set-piece were denied, failed to find a winner.

  • Switzerland v Turkey: Petkovic calls for 'solidarity' and 'positivity' Switzerland v Turkey: Petkovic calls for 'solidarity' and 'positivity'

    Vladimir Petkovic has asked for "solidarity" and "positivity" from Switzerland supporters ahead of the crunch Euro 2020 Group A match against Turkey on Sunday. 

    A 1-1 draw with Wales was followed by a resounding 3-0 defeat to Italy to leave Switzerland's hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages hanging by a thread. 

    They will need to beat Turkey and hope Wales lose to Italy in the group's other game to secure a top-two finish. 

    Petkovic and his players have come under intense scrutiny since the Italy defeat, but the head coach has called on Switzerland supporters to get behind the team for Sunday's clash in Baku. 

    "Against Turkey we have another chance to qualify for the round of 16 and we have to bring all of our values and virtues back to the pitch, in addition to the correct tactical plan, solidarity, joy and respect. Then we can do it," he wrote in an open letter published in Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende.

    "We do not always do what you expect from us. We are people who try to meet these demands, but unfortunately we do not always succeed. And that is why we need the support of all of you before this crucial game. 

    "Your solidarity, your positivity. We will do everything we can to ensure that we can all be happy together on Sunday evening."

    Turkey, meanwhile, have endured a dismal campaign so far, suffering defeats to Italy and Wales in their opening two games. 

    They cannot finish in the top two and must beat Switzerland to come third in the group.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Switzerland – Granit Xhaka

    Arsenal midfielder Xhaka was criticised by TV pundits in Switzerland for his display in the defeat to Italy. 

    Despite that, no Switzerland player has made more passes (153), had more touches (172) or made more tackles (five) than the 28-year-old at Euro 2020 so far. 

    If they are going to get the win they need against Turkey, Xhaka will need to be at his best.

    Turkey – Burak Yilmaz

    Yilmaz enjoyed a stellar season with Lille as they swept to Ligue 1 glory but he has not got going at this tournament yet. 

    He was involved in 50 per cent of Turkey’s 18 shots against Wales last time out (six shots, three chances created), although just one of those attempts was on target. 

    This could be the last major tournament for the 35-year-old and he will be desperate to make his mark against the Swiss.

     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - This will be the second meeting between Switzerland and Turkey at a major tournament. Their first encounter was in the group phase of Euro 2008 where Switzerland, as co-hosts, lost 2-1 to Turkey.
    - The last five games between Switzerland and Turkey have produced 17 goals, an average of 3.4 per game.
    - Switzerland (D1 L1) are looking to avoid remaining winless in all three of their group stage games at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2004.
    - Turkey have lost both of their games at Euro 2020, by an aggregate score of 0-5. In a full tournament, only Denmark in 2000 (eight) have conceded more goals without reply.
    - Switzerland's loss against Italy was their first defeat in all competitions in 2021. The Swiss last lost consecutive matches in October 2020 (vs Croatia and Spain).

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.