Ten-man Paris Saint-Germain blew a chance to effectively wrap up their first Ligue 1 title since 1994 on Sunday as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Valenciennes.
Gael Danic put the visitors ahead on 17 minutes, while PSG captain Thiago Silva was shown a controversial first-half red card at the Parc des Princes, before Alex earned Carlo Ancelotti’s side a point late on.
The result saw PSG, who own a far superior goal-difference to that of second-placed Olympique de Marseille, have their lead at the top trimmed to seven points with three games remaining, while Valenciennes stayed 12th.
Ancelotti hit out at the decision to red card Silva.
“In world football, the team that has more possession has fewer bookings and red cards, but not us. Here it is the opposite,” Ancelotti said.
The fallout from the previous weekend’s ill-tempered victory at Evian Thonon Gaillard left Ancelotti without first-choice goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and midfielder Marco Verratti, while David Beckham was also forced to watch from the stands, with Thiago Motta also still suspended.
A hamstring injury ruled out Valenciennes’ top scorer Gregory Pujol, but Lindsay Rose almost gave the visitors a dream start as his glancing header from Danic’s free-kick flashed just past Nicolas Douchez’s far post.
Javier Pastore forced Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau to tip over, but it was the away side that broke the deadlock just past the quarter hour as the deputizing Douchez palmed Vincent Aboubakar’s long-range strike into the path of Danic, who unerringly steered the rebound low into the corner.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared well-placed to haul PSG level after lifting the ball over the advancing Penneteau, only for the Swede to try an ill-advised flick that allowed the visitors to clear.
Maxwell then fired a volley into the side netting shortly afterwards, while Penneteau spread himself well to deny Ezequiel Lavezzi.
PSG’s hopes were dealt a serious blow when Silva was dismissed three minutes before halftime following an altercation with referee Alexandre Castro in which the Brazilian placed his hands on the official, who appeared to tell protesting teammates he had been pushed by the defender.
Valenciennes’ continuing quest for an unlikely win saw Kenny Lala repelled by Douchez, but it was the visitors’ goal that was coming under increasing pressure as Ibrahimovic drilled narrowly wide from an acute angle, before Penneteau made a vital intervention to deny Kevin Gameiro a tap-in.
Alex then had a header cleared off the line by Maor Melikson, but the away side failed to heed that warning as the towering centerhalf powered Lavezzi’s corner home seven minutes from time.
Earlier, Olympique Lyonnais remained on track to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League after cruising past relegation-threatened AS Nancy-Lorraine 3-0.
Bafetimbi Gomis struck two second-half goals to take his season’s tally to 16, while Yoann Gourcuff was also on target as Lyon recorded their third victory in four to take a three-point lead in the race for the third place and final Champions League place.
Meanwhile, Nancy remain one point clear of the relegation zone with three games remaining after their six-game unbeaten streak came to an end.
OGC Nice strengthened their quest for European soccer next season, climbing to fourth, following a 3-0 win at Stade Rennais.
Dario Cvitanich netted two second-half goals, the second of which came from the penalty spot, to take his haul for the campaign to 17, while Eric Bautheac added a late third for Claude Puel’s side.
Defeat for Rennes means they have won once in their past 11 outings, a slide that has seen them drop from fifth down to 11th.