The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
PSG loses but clinches 2nd straight French title after rival Monaco draws 1-1 with Guingamp
PARIS - Paris Saint-Germain won its second straight title with two matches to spare despite playing one of its worst games of the season.
PSG stumbled to a 2-1 home defeat to Renne on Wednesday, relying on rival Monaco's 1-1 draw at home to Guingamp in the earlier match to hand it the title.
Second-place Monaco dropped seven points behind, meaning PSG could afford to lose in the late kickoff.
"Thanks to the players and congratulations to them. I'm especially proud to win this title," PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. "This year, our form has been very good, although the last game doesn't reflect that. It annoys me a bit, but you have to look at the whole season and the title is deserved."
PSG took an early lead through Argentina winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, but relegation battler Rennes assured it will stay in the first division as it hit back with goals from midfielder Foued Kadir and forward Paul-Georges Ntep.
"The stadium was full and we couldn't win, unfortunately. But we won the title and that's the main thing," PSG midfielder Yohan Cabaye said.
Blanc also guided Bordeaux to the championship in the 2008-09 season, ending Lyon's run of seven straight titles.
Monaco looked to have delayed PSG's title celebrations for a little longer when forward Dimitar Berbatov headed home in the 77th minute, but Guingamp substitute Fatih Atik equalized in the 85th.
"PSG is a great team and they deserved it," Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri said.
PSG, which was formed in 1970, has won four league titles. The club has invested massively in star players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani, since Qatari investors, QSI, bought the club three years ago.
Although PSG has had a comfortable run to the title, there have been some far from convincing performances. In recent weeks, PSG laboured to a 1-0 win against Evian, drew 1-1 at Sochaux and lost to Rennes — all teams battling against relegation.
"We've had 10 good months, but the last month has not been good," captain Thiago Silva said.
Against the other top four teams, PSG has won only one of five league games — at home to Saint-Etienne, drawing twice with Monaco, at home to Lille and getting a somewhat fortuitous goal from midfielder Blaise Matuidi to sneak a 2-2 draw at Saint-Etienne.
"The important thing is what we did before, we did a great job," goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu said.
PSG's players were all smiles, shook hands in the tunnel and did high-fives before they took the field, with the crowd roaring in delight upon hearing that Monaco had drawn.
Last season, PSG won the league with 83 points — a total it has equaled — and finished 12 points ahead of Marseille and 16 clear of Lyon.
PSG also won the League Cup in April, beating Lyon 2-1 in the final, but went out in the Champions League quarterfinals for the second straight season on the away goals rule, losing 2-0 to Chelsea after winning the home leg 3-1.
"I'm very happy with our season and our results. I think (it's a better season than last year) in terms of our results and our style of play," PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. "We were champions before the game so this game wasn't important — sorry for our fans."
Lavezzi sprinted onto Cavani's pass and slipped the ball under goalkeeper Benoit Costil for his 11th goal of the season.
Rennes levelled in the 23rd when midfielder Foued Kadir collected the ball just inside the penalty area and drilled it past Sirigu. Four minutes later, Paul-Georges Ntep scored from a freekick that looped over the PSG defence.
PSG's last home defeat in the league was a 2-1 reverse against Rennes in November, 2012, although this season it lost at home to Montpellier in the French Cup in January.
Following a month out with a hamstring injury, Ibrahimovic came on in the 56th minute, but was ineffective. Center half Alex hit the crossbar in the last minute for PSG.
Earlier, Berbatov headed in substitute Nabil Dirar's crossed from the right, taking his tally to nine in 14 games since joining from Premier League side Fulham on a six-month deal in January.
However, Atik was left unmarked to volley in a loose ball inside the penalty area.
The draw gives 16th-place Guingamp a vital point in its relegation scrap, moving it two points above Sochaux in 18th spot.
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