A second half goal from Brazilian winger Lucas Moura gave ten-man Paris Saint-Germain a 1-0 win, their first in a Ligue 1 opener since their new Qatari owners took over in 2011, at Lille on Friday.
The three-time Ligue 1 champions were a player down after half an hour after midfielder Adrien Rabiot was given his marching orders for two yellow cards in the space of five minutes.
Rabiot picked up the first on 22 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Lille midfielder Florent Balmont, and minutes later was sent off by referee Fredy Fautrel for a foul on defender Sebastian Corchia.
The 20-year-old Rabiot, who had a spat with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during a friendly against Chelsea in July, had been favoured by Laurent Blanc over Thiago Motta despite several run-ins with the coach at the end of last season.
“It’s a fact of the game,” said Blanc of Rabiot’s expulsion.
“The first card was perhaps a little severe, the second foul was an error of youth: when you have a yellow card you don’t get a second.
“The second was very prejudicial for the team. But perhaps it was that which galvanised us. But I prefer playing eleven.”
The Parisians had been struggling to contain Lille who finished eighth last season and were playing their first competitive match under new coach Herve Renard.
Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore filled in for injured Swede Ibrahimovic while awaiting the availability of new Argentinian recruit Angel Di Maria.
PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, who arrived from Frankfurt for 12 million euros from Eintracht Frankfurt this summer, was in goal at the expense of Italian Salvatore Sirigu.
But the misfortune of Rabiot, who has been no stranger to controversy, spurred Blanc’s side into action.
After Rabiot’s explusion, Lille’s Eric Bauth ac stepped up but failed to convert the resulting free kick which David Luiz and Trapp managed to contain.
Lucas, who scored seven Ligue 1 goals last season, finally got the breakthrough after 57 minutes to give PSG their first away win in a season opener in 19 years.
At the heart of the action, Lucas passed to Edinson Cavani who pushed on to Blaise Matuidi, returning the ball to Lucas for a brillant solo run through the Lille defence and past goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama into an empty net.
“I’m very happy with my goal, it was good for the club and for my confidence,” said Lucas. “We’re going to be even better with Di Maria who is an exceptional player.”
‘Sense of frustration’
Despite their numerical inferiority the Parisians were never really worried by Lille.
“I feel a great sense of frustration,” said Renard — who coached the Ivory Coast to Africa Cup of Nations glory in February.
“We can have a lot of regrets. Everything wasn’t perfect but with a bit more determination, even if there was already quite a lot, and a bit of daring, we could have gotten a draw.
“You can’t cause your rivals problems when you’re afraid.
“It wasn’t PSG it was a PSG at ten. Of course they have quality players, they are the French champions, but if they found themselves at 10 it was because of our good pressing. We had a great opportunity.”
For Lille it was their first loss of a season-opener since 2009.
The capital club are bidding for their fourth straight Ligue 1 title this season having won every domestic trophy available last season.
They have already won silverware at the start of this campaign, beating Lyon 2-0 in last weekend’s Champions Trophy in Montreal.
“Starting the championship in these circumstances with three points at Lille, it’s very good,” said Blanc, whose side last won a season-opener in 2010.
“It bodes well for what’s to come. For some time now, as a group, we’ve been getting better and better. And if you add that we had no injuries this evening it’s really a very good night.”
The remainder of the Ligue 1 matches will be played on Saturday and Sunday with last season’s runners-up Lyon opening their campaign against Lorient at the Stade de Gerland.