Paris Saint-Germain salvaged a point with 10 men as they drew 0-0 at struggling Reims on Saturday but still increased their Ligue 1 lead after Marseille lost 2-1 at home to last-place Ajaccio.
Both PSG and Marseille rested starters with an eye on midweek Champions League games and their showdown next Sunday.
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Marseille came a cropper, despite Dimitri Payet’s 100th Ligue 1 goal. PSG escaped with a draw, despite Sergio Ramos’ 28th career red card.
PSG coach Christophe Galtier made five changes from the team that drew 1-1 away to Benfica in midweek and his side spent much of the first 40 minutes on the back foot.
Reims pressed but struggled to create clear-cut chances while PSG were dangerous on the counter-attack.
Yehvann Diouf flew to his right to save a drive-by Fabian Ruiz and then blocked a powerful shot from Kylian Mbappe, when the only one of the three PSG superstar strikers to start, broke clear after 33 minutes.
Two minutes later, Marshall Munetsi spun in the PSG box but Gianluigi Donnarumma, the hero against Benfica in midweek, saved the low shot at full stretch.
Four minutes before halftime, Ramos argued himself into two quick yellow cards as PSG mobbed referee Pierre Gaillouste to protest a free kick against Marco Verratti.
“I know Sergio Ramos well, I am not convinced that the insult that came out was in the direction of the referee. It is a training-ground insult that you hear a lot on the field in Spain. The referee took it personally and sent him off," said Galtier
Reims, who had collected six red cards, comfortably the most in Ligue 1 this season, struggled to exploit their advantage.
Abner Zeneli drew a sharp save from Donnarumma at the start of the second half but then the home team ran out of steam.
Neymar came on and shot wide when clean through.
The game ended with a string of fouls followed by bad-tempered confrontations as Neymar, Achraf Hakimi, who had come on in the 88th minute, and Mbappe, as well as Andrew Gravillon and Bradley Locko of Reims collected added-time yellow cards.
“There was a lot of tension, I can’t explain it," said Galtier. “On both sides, with a lot of duels, clashes, discussions. Neither team was in control."
Earlier Marseille crashed back to earth after crushing Sporting Lisbon 4-1 in midweek and lost for the first time in Ligue 1 this season.
“We didn’t imagine that we would remain unbeaten all season but it’s certainly hard to lose at home to the last-placed team," said coach Igor Tudor, who said he was “very angry".
Tudor made seven changes to the starting lineup that beat Sporting.
His team took the lead after 15 minutes when Dimitri Payet converted a penalty after a handball by Ajaccio defender Cedric Avinel.
It was the 35-year-old playmaker’s 100th Ligue 1 goal, 16 years after his first for Nantes.
The Velodrome crowd’s delight did not last long.
Ajaccio striker Bevic Moussiti-Oko equalised with a low left-footed shot, his first Ligue 1 goal, in the 25th minute.
The Corsicans had only scored five goals in nine matches before Saturday but got some help when Argentine defender Leonardo Balerdi, who scored for Marseille on Tuesday, put the ball in his own net in the 47th minute.
Marseille pressed but the equaliser never came.
“I feel like even if we had played 200 minutes, we still wouldn’t have won," said Tudor.
Marseille stay second but could be overtaken by Lens and Lorient on Sunday.
Ajaccio climbed off the bottom to 18th in the 20-team league but could be back in last by the end of the weekend.
“Maybe facing the last-place team did not motivate the Marseille players, especially after they opened the scoring," said Ajaccio coach Olivier Pantaloni. “But maybe we also did what was necessary to upset them."
Read all the Latest Sports News and Breaking News here(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - AFP)