By D. Crossan

Kevin Strootman stepped off the bench to score the winner for second-placed Olympique de Marseille at Stade Rennais in the first Ligue 1 Conforama match of 2020.

Stade Rennais FC 0-1 Olympique de Marseille

THE MATCH

OM ended Rennes’ winning run at five matches, extended their own run to a mightily impressive 25 points from a possible 27 and enhanced their prospects of a top two finish. It was a bit of a smash and grab raid from OM as their goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was probably man of the match.

Rennes’ form late in 2019 had seen them surge up to third in the table and a pumped up Roazhon Park was ready for the visit of OM. Benjamin Bourigeaud (16′) fired over with an acrobatic effort but OM then went incredibly close to opening the scoring when the luckless Alvaro Gonzalez (28′) struck the post with a left-footed shot.

Bourigeaud (31′) missed the target with a free-kick but then brought the best out of Mandanda (43′) who dived well to his left to keep out the curling shot. It was a hard fought encounter – as expected – and the in-form Raphinha almost put Rennes ahead (67′) with a sudden shot that seemed to catch Mandanda by surprise and shaved the post.

Dimitri Payet has been outstanding for OM in recent weeks and he was close to a fifth goal in his last eight league games, only for Edouard Mendy to get down well to the French international midfielder’s 20-metre half-volley. Payet played a huge role in the Strootman (84′) winner. Payet’s 25-metre free-kick was saved by Mendy but the ball came out to Strootman and he finished from close range. That was enough for OM to claim the spoils and move onto 41 points, now eight points clear of Renens who have a game in hand.

THE PLAYER: Kevin Strootman

The Dutch international has endured a difficult time since joining from Roma in the summer of 2018 and in recent weeks has had to share the defensive midfield position with Boubacar Kamara. Here Strootman started on the bench but came on to score a massive goal in terms of OM’s season, a strike liable to elevate his standing with the supporters.

THE STAT: 9

Olympique de Marseille’s ninth game unbeaten extended their record for the longest unbeaten run in the top division this season.

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