Paris Saint-Germain were without the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos against Angers SCO on Friday and it showed in their lackluster display as the French giants scraped a 2-1 win over one of Ligue 1's surprise packages so far.
The impact of the latest international break must not detract from the visitors' performance which was the latest in a line of encouraging displays under new boss Gerald Baticle but PSG were majorly underwhelming once more and needed a Danilo Pereira header and a controversial late Kylian Mbappe penalty via VAR to save them from a second consecutive defeat.
Angers were full value for their halftime lead through Angelo Fulgini as Sofiane Boufal and Mohamed-Ali Cho ran the home defense ragged at Parc des Princes to the frustration of Mauricio Pochettino, who was pretty much obliged to field a makeshift back four.
Despite the numerous absences for PSG, Mbappe, Marco Verratti, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Mauro Icardi and Presnel Kimpembe all still started in an XI which, while not lacking individual ability, looked every bit the bunch of players who have scarcely played together that many of these peripheral figures are.
"It was not an easy game," admitted Pochettino post-match. "It was important to get back on the winning path after losing to Rennes. It has been two weeks since we played and some players are returning from injury. I agree with those of you who say that we must do better."
Gini Wijnaldum, who voiced his concern at his current situation in Paris over the international break, was only a substitute alongside the likes of Julian Draxler while Juan Bernat made his return from a lengthy injury layoff, so it was hardly the bare bones even if there were some major names missing.
Yet PSG made it appear as if they could barely field a coherent selection with 90 more labored minutes where they did not really deserve much more than a point and Angers could even feel aggrieved at that given their first half mastery of Les Parisiens.
Then there is the penalty. Like against Olympique Lyonnais a few weeks ago when Neymar was incredibly awarded a penalty for a tangle with Malo Gusto in which he appeared to be at least an equal aggressor, VAR came to PSG's rescue with another spot-kick out of thin air.
Mbappe, fresh from exorcizing his Euro 2020 summer ghosts after his shootout miss against Switzerland, added to his penalty against Belgium which sent France to a 3-2 UEFA Nations League win and into the final with equal aplomb past Paul Bernardoni.
"It is unbelievable what has happened here," raged an aggrieved Romain Thomas after the final whistle. "To lose 2-1 here is nothing to be ashamed of but in this fashion it is just not possible. We work all week to put in a proper performance, it does not make sense that the referees would not take the time as well.
"I am getting tired of this VAR business. We have poured millions into it and we do not even know how to use it. It annoys me because I am passionate about football and devoted to it, I pay attention to what I do. Icardi commits a foul at the start of the play, he pulls my arm, I fall, and then he makes the most of his position to win the penalty. I am frustrated."
To say that it was a harsh blow for Angers, though, would be an understatement and Baticle's men will feel hard done by having put so much into an ultimately unrewarding evening under the lights in the capital.
"It is hard to see," said Pochettino of the handball decision. "It is not easy. Sometimes VAR goes for you and other times it goes against you. I can understand why Angers are complaining. We would have liked to have won differently here. This time, it went in our favor."
Expect things to be massively different for PSG come Tuesday against RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League when the big guns will be back and aiming to stay top of Group A after their impressive win over Manchester City last time out but there is no escaping the feeling that Pochettino's men are scraping by doing the bare minimum right now.