Enrique defends decision to bench Mbappe as PSG drop points again

 

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN coach Luis Enrique defended his stuttering team after they were held 2-2 by Reims in Ligue 1 on Sunday, a third straight domestic draw which still allowed the reigning champions to go 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Kylian Mbappe was rested at kick-off after scoring both goals in PSG’s 2-1 midweek win at Real Sociedad which saw them qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals 4-1 on aggregate.

Without him, PSG fell behind to a Marshall Munetsi goal following an error by Achraf Hakimi.

They hit back and found themselves ahead thanks to a Yunis Abdelhamid own goal and a Goncalo Ramos strike, but Oumar Diakite’s goal for Reims ensured a share of the spoils.

It was at times a disjointed and error-strewn display from a PSG side showing six changes from their midweek Champions League performance, and Reims were well worth their point.

“I didn’t think the team was too relaxed at any point. I thought their mentality was just right,” Luis Enrique said of his side’s performance.

“I never like to gift goals and the first goal was a big one but otherwise it was all positive.

“We pressed well, we were aggressive. Today we had the chance to go 12 points clear and that is our objective, to win the league as soon as possible and compete in every competition.”

Paris fell behind in the seventh minute when Hakimi was dispossessed inside his own box, allowing Diakite to set up Zimbabwe international Munetsi to score. 

- Mbappe benched again -

 However, PSG — with the names on the back of their shirts written in Korean to mark the opening of a new club shop in Seoul — drew level in the 17th minute.

Reims captain Abdelhamid scored an unfortunate own goal as he turned Hakimi’s corner into the net under pressure from Ramos.

Portugal striker Ramos then put PSG ahead two minutes later with his ninth goal of the season, finding the net with a deflected shot after the Reims defence had failed to deal with a Lee Kang-in cross.

Yet Will Still’s Reims, who sit in mid-table, came back to equalise on the stroke of half-time when Emmanuel Agbadou picked out Diakite with a superb defence-splitting pass, and the young Ivory Coast striker beat PSG’s stand-in goalkeeper Keylor Navas with a clinical finish.

Luis Enrique sent on Mbappe in the 73rd minute, with Ousmane Dembele and Randal Kolo Muani also introduced from the bench.

Mbappe had several attempts to score but could not add to his 34 goals for the season in all competitions as PSG followed up recent league draws with Rennes and Monaco by dropping points again.

However, a 1-0 defeat for nearest challengers Brest at Lens on Saturday means PSG have a huge 10-point advantage with only nine matches of the season remaining.

It was a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 game in which Mbappe has either started on the bench or been substituted since he informed PSG of his intention to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.

“When the different parties comment on it, then I will comment. As long as nobody says anything I will do my job which is to take decisions,” said the coach, with Mbappe and PSG both yet to make any public pronouncements on his future.

Third-placed Monaco can move to within a point of Brest with a win at Strasbourg later on Sunday.

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